As the Internet and mobile technology expand into more areas of our business, there need to be systems in place- both on a personal and professional level- to ensure that these changes are actually bringing us the benefits they promised.
Small Businesses Are Slowly Integrating New Technologies
Over the past 15 years, there has been an increasing pull among small business in particular to adapt emerging technologies. Along the way, there have been many enticing “assurances” that all of these digital tools will enhance the way they do business.
For example, according to a recent study from SAP SE, the small and medium-sized companies that have integrated digital technology into their operations tend to experience faster growth than the companies that do not.
But, many of the nation’s small businesses are still dragging their feet when it comes to adopting some pretty essential new technologies. According to a recent State of Small Business Report, by Wasp Barcode:
- 48% of small businesses either do not track their inventory with a digital tool or use a manual process
- 55% of small businesses do not track assets digitally or use a manual process.
- While 62% of larger small businesses (101-499 employees) use or plan to use Web-based or subscription-based software, only 36% of smaller businesses (5-10 employees) do.
- Just 43% of small businesses prefer to purchase software directly from the manufacturer; most prefer to purchase it through online or brick and mortar retailers.
These numbers reveal a big gap between where many small businesses are now versus where they will likely need to be in the next 5 to 10 years technology-wise in order to stay competitive.
But, as more and more of the nation’s smallest businesses jump on board the digital bandwagon, success will be affected by how systematically this technology is integrated into their operations.
How to On-Board New Technology in Your Small Business… The Right Way
Whether you are buying a new accounting tool, setting up a point-of-sale system, or incorporating a whole project management suite, bringing new technology into your business should be a process that takes into consideration the needs and preferences of all the key players in your business. This includes your employees, your customers, and your business’ leadership. If you fail to consider the needs of any of these groups, then you could end up choosing the wrong solution.
How do you bring it all together? Here are a few things to consider for each of the three main groups mentioned above:
Employees. Since your employees will be the ones most using the new technology, you should really start here. Deciding which technology to bring in will depend on a few factors, namely:
- How many employees will be using the platform or device?
- Where will technology be used: in an office, on the road, in-person client meetings?
- What other platforms and devices are your employees currently using? Does the new technology need to be compatible with it?
- What kind of technical support do you need? Do you have on-site IT help? If not, then how savvy are your employees with the new technology?
Customers. While your customers may not directly interact with the platforms you are considering, their habits and needs may affect the types of platforms that would be most appropriate. There are a few factors to consider, including:
- Do you offer your customers a personalized experience? If you need to save a lot of personal data, then how sensitive is this data? Information, such as addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers, will need to be stored in a way that offers some protection against hackers.
- Will the product affect the user experience in any way?
Leadership. Last, but not least, you need to consider how the technology you choose will fit into the big picture of the business. In other words, how will it help the company’s leadership to reach both short-term and long-term goals.
- Do you need technology that can be easily learned and used?
- How much can your company afford to pay for this technology- both now and in the near future?
- Finally, what are your growth projections over the next 5 to 10 years? Do you need a solution that will scale with your business?
Once you are in touch with the needs of all the major groups within your business, you then need to narrow down your options by focusing on the following criteria:
The nexus between price and features. In short, you need to determine what you can reasonably afford to lay down for this new platform. But, this budget should be made after you have thought about what features you will need- both now and over the next few years.
Where, when, and by whom. Many platforms come with restrictions on the number of users or the types of devices that can be used. Make sure you are clear about your needs before you invest in a new technology.
Integration and collaboration. Finally, you need to take a look at the platform from a big picture perspective. Will it integrate with existing technology, as mentioned above? Plus, will it enable collaboration among various teams, customers, and business partners? While this may not seem so important now. It could be if your business is on the verge of a major growth spurt.
In short, by being clear about your business’ needs- both now and in the future- you will stand a better chance of choosing the technologies that can bring some real returns.