Ever since the Internet bubble burst, the hype surrounding new technology is increasingly viewed with a skeptical eye. Companies rarely invest in the latest trends these days because they've learned that "the latest" changes every few months. The businesses that make the best technology investments are those that begin with one question: What problem can it solve?
Hispanic Business talked with three Hispanic-owned companies that are solving problems by making wise investments in proven technologies.
WHEN TIME MATTERS
Technology can carry people to the moon, but can it cut through bureaucracy? Maybe not completely, but Outsource Consultants is betting that technology can reduce some of the waiting for their clients, builders who turn to them for help with the dozens of permits they need to complete projects in New York City.
The Manhattan-based company, founded in 1993, has developed an Internet-based application that allows clients to check on the status of their permits, as well as view and print copies of drawings and documents. The company has even automated some processes, e-mailing clients automatically to let them know when the city green-lights their requests. Previously, clients were at the mercy of an overworked phone system, which was not only inconvenient but also a significant drain on productivity.
Caballero estimates that his company, which has annual revenues of $5 million and employs 25 people, has invested $500,000 in developing a proprietary technology that the company hopes will set it apart from competitors. However, the system began as a way to make their lives easier.
"We deal with a lot of paperwork. There could be 500 projects in this office at any given time," Caballero says, noting that the company had some software to speed the data-entry process. But employees were still filling out the same information in duplicate. That was when the company decided to turn to technology as a way to become more efficient – though they didn't know what to expect.
"It was an exhaustive process to prepare a spec [for the software]," says Caballero. The company contracted the project to a software developer, who created flow charts to map all of the company's tasks. It took about three months to develop the specifications, deciding what features the company absolutely needed.
The company began by focusing on its core business: preparing the forms and applications demanded by New York City before buildings can be renovated. By streamlining and automating that process, the company has cut the amount of time spent on administrative work by as much as 80 percent, Caballero says.
The technology has paid for itself, he says, and has allowed the company to reduce its number of project managers from five to three, leaving more time for following up with clients.
One key decision was to make the project Internet-based, knowing that the final stage would be to allow clients to access information about their projects. "It was not unlike renovating a house," Caballero says. And, as with any renovation, a determining factor was money.
"We had no idea what the cost was going to be," says Caballero. But, as the project began to come online, "we knew that we had created, in our opinion, something very special to our industry. It just allows you to see a very linear, complicated process," says Caballero.
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