Technology is supposed to make life easier: increasing productivity, helping to keep your small business organized, and giving you the competitive edge. Whether to improve customer service or communication, productivity or profitability, the efficient use of technology within a small business can go a long way towards making it a success. But with so much rapidly evolving technologies available, how should you go about making the right decisions about your business’ needs? Taking the plunge and investing in technology can be daunting, but if done well, can dramatically help your business’ growth.
1. Analyze Your Business Needs
Conduct a technology inventory of your business as it stands. What technology do you already have in place? How well is it serving your business? Put all of your current technology into three categories (good, bad, needs improvement) in order to assess where the holes in your technological infrastructure are.
When you’re used to outdated or sometimes even difficult methods of working, ways to improve can sometimes be difficult to see. Try to think how your business processes could be made easier by improving the technology available to you and your employees.
Common areas for improvements in technology include:
- Accounting and Financing
- Order Taking and Tracking
- Database Management
- Communication (both internal and with customers)
- HR Management
2. Choose Technology That Grows with Your Business
Purchasing new technology is likely to be expensive, so you should carefully consider what you’re going to buy. A useful method of assessing potential purchases is to look around industry-specific business forums. What are other, similar small businesses using? Have they experienced any difficulties? Or found a particular device or software package to become outdated quickly?
There is always a risk that whatever technology you purchase could become outdated faster than you anticipated. When this happens, you’re stuck with expensive equipment that you’ll have to donate, recycle or sell. To counteract this risk, there is always the option of leasing technological equipment in order to stay up-to-date with more sophisticated technology. However, this comes with its own array of potential downfalls (paying more in the long run, for example) so is certainly not for everyone.
3. Always Think in Terms of Need
This point harks back to determining what your business needs, but is important enough to address again. Thinking in terms of need (and not just desire) is incredibly important for the successful implementation of new technologies within a business. Once you have jumped on the technological bandwagon, you’ll notice how rapidly it moves. Only make changes and purchase devices that your business actually needs, and make a comprehensive plan as to where it will be of use in your business.
For example, if you have employees that are constantly on-the-go, meeting with clients and conducting business outside the office, then it may make sense to invest in gadgets like a tablet that can accept credit card payments. As well as this, think outside the box. You may like a particular package, but there may be other, more industry-specific software available to your business that is likely to make things run a lot more smoothly.
4. Have a Backup Plan
Technology fails. It’s a fact of life. If you don’t plan for this eventuality, then you could be faced with the prospect of your business shutting down entirely for a period of time, leading to considerable losses. If you completely depend on technology, it’s important to complete a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to predict the consequences of the disruption of a business process. Doing this will help you to gather the information you will need to develop a recovery strategy in the event of a technological disaster.
Disaster recovery plans can include backup power supplies, hardware, and cloud storage, and no matter how small your business, can save you devastating downtime.
5. Get Support
Often the right person to deal with technological services such as installation, upgrades, troubleshooting and security is a professional, so consider hiring specific IT support. Once this individual or service is in place, ensure that you have a thorough protocol for staff to report any IT problems and make sure that your employees are familiar with it.
6. Don’t Forget Training
You can invest thousands upon thousands in up-to-the-minute technology, but if nobody knows how to use it effectively then your business will still not be working at optimum efficiency. Developing an ongoing training process so that your employees can benefit from your IT investments and keep up to date with continuing improvements is essential to make the most out of your investment.
What are some of the considerations you make when choosing technology for your small business?
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