We rely on computers and the internet to do just about everything in business. Recently, I learned of a small business owner who was spending 4-6 hours each week deleting emails to free up space. She was so busy she didn’t have time to figure out a solution. The resolution of this issue cost her only a few dollars more a month than her outdated e-mail plan and gave her all that time back.
This goes back to the same old problem. Small Business owners are really, really busy.
Technology is an integral part of every system in today’s business environment. The quicker and more effectively you design, implement and train your team on current technology systems the more stable and organized your company will be.
AND, you will get your valuable time back!
Before you explore new options including upgrades to current software, take stock of what you already have. From computers to digital cameras, to software and scanners, take inventory of everything you currently have.
Many business owners don’t have control over basic technology information including where their websites and/or emails are hosted and where their company’s URL were purchased and gets renewed. The risk without this knowledge is that the person with control over these assets could easily shut down your online presence and you may not be able to do anything about it.
It is helpful to track the operating system and technical specs (processor, RAM) of every computer you and your team uses. As you explore technical options, every piece of hardware or software will need a computer that has certain specifications; if your computers do not have those, you will be wasting your money and time needing to upgrade everything because of one piece of software you bought.
Once you have a functioning inventory of all of the technology, identify what each piece of technology does for the company.
- How does that piece of software or hardware accomplish the goals of the company? Note any major frustrations.
- If you have other pieces of technology like a scanner or digital camera, how do those increase productivity? Do people use the camera or just use their smartphones?
- How does your team communicate using technology and could it be better?
- Are you wasting time using an older outdated computer program or is there a piece of digital technology completely missing?
Evaluate how each piece of technology adds to service, productivity or profitability in your company. If it doesn’t, or it’s very small, ditch the technology.
If your technology is severely outdated, I recommend either updating it or removing it all together. Technology that your customers and employees have to battle is something that severely damages productivity and ultimately profit. Not to mention employee moral battling every day with machines that make them look bad.
Using your existing technology list create a data base of links, codes, passwords, software, agreements, warranties and training links. This is huge. Consider using a password system like Lastpass to keep control over your data.
Technology is only as powerful and useful as the people who know how to use it. You can get the latest gadget with all the bells and whistles, but if your employees can’t figure out how to use it, it quickly becomes an expensive frustration.
Here’s an example. Lots of companies will have a very complex copying machine. If you asked the person who used it the most how to do a complex task like binding, which the machine is capable of doing, the response would most likely be a shoulder shrug.
Take your current technology and make sure that every code, password, back up piece of software and warranty is filed and ready for use.
Also review your security for your software. How up-to-date is it?
Check and see how your employees are trained on software. Do they just learn the bare bones for what they “need to know” or are there features on your current software that go untouched which could save you (or earn you) a great deal of money?
A common move for businesses is to constantly be spending money to update to or buy the newest gadget or software. It is one strategy. Before you do, take a look at similar companies and see what software and hardware they are using.
Is there new database software that could help your sales? Is there better social media software to enhance your marketing? (careful it’s a trap, don’t be bedazzled by the herd, find something that works and tighten up your focus there)
Spend your strategic time researching and evaluating the most up-to-date software that could solve problems and increase productivity. Better yet, outsource this task to someone who is well versed in the tech area you are exploring and ask them to report back to you to make the final decision.
Finally, assemble and maintain the most effective technology and workflow. Create a cycle where technology is updated every 2-3 years to keep productivity up and running. Replace broken, slow or severely outdated technology. Keeping your internet security up-to-date is paramount. Be aware of new, emerging technology that your field uses and see if it is a proper fit for your company.
Be sure to include regular conversations with your team to get regular feedback about technology and use your collective knowledge and individual strengths to build great technology systems.