Can you imagine spending a day, or even an hour, at work without your mobile phone or computer?
For business owners today, technology is critical to their daily operations. In fact, a survey conducted by Brother last year found that 71 percent of owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees said new technologies would offer a bigger return on investment than new employees.
While critical to operations, how do you determine which technologies to invest in when there are so many options? Which software should you use for financial tracking, customer support and employee collaboration? Is your data secure? Does it make sense to give all your employees tablets? Then there’s the issue of training. When you introduce a new technology, how long will it take for your employees to learn to use it effectively? How do you stay current as technology changes?
At the Women’s Business Development Center, we advise clients to develop a technology plan with projected costs—upfront and ongoing, prioritize what they should purchase right now and what can be purchased over time. We suggest they ask them selves these questions:
● What do you want to accomplish? Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Are you primarily interested in freeing up your staff for other tasks? Responding to customer demand for the convenience of online scheduling or payment? Growing sales through the web? Technology should work for you, and to do that, you need to be clear on your goals.
● Do the benefits outweigh the time it takes to modify processes and train employees? Most small businesses cannot buy custom software, which means your processes may need to change to fit the new system. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but you should think through the ramifications for your company. With change comes the need to up skill your employees. Even simple technologies will require some level of training. If your employees can’t or won’t use the technology, it will be a waste of money.
● How much due diligence have you done? Once you decide what you want to accomplish, start researching. Look online at some options; then watch demos and always ask for a small business owner (or two or three) with whom you can speak as a reference. Talk with other business owners or an advisor at a Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center (such as the WBDC) to see if they are familiar with particular systems. While the decision is yours, you aren’t alone!
REMEMBER: Technology is an investment, and you should expect a return. Focus on your business needs, and create a technology plan to reap the greatest benefits for your