Technology plays a key role in any business today, and it’s an important component for growth.
Technology plays a key role in any business today, and it’s an important component for growth – in two ways. First, technology can be a necessary ingredient that enables you to start your business. And then, as your business grows, your requirements evolve and your technology will need to keep pace. But many entrepreneurs and small business owners aren’t super techy – and that’s okay. Here are three steps to help even the most non-technical among you to leverage technology to enable and support business growth.
1. Understand where technology fits in your business.
Technology can touch virtually every aspect of your business, so you want to think about where it fits within your organization. To make it easier to manage, you can break it down into the following four categories:
- Infrastructure – By itself, infrastructure doesn’t provide value, but it enables you to take advantage of other systems and applications that help you run your business. The network and computers/devices are examples of infrastructure technology.
- Communications and productivity – These tools, which include voice systems and basic applications such as word processing and spreadsheets, enable us to connect and communicate.
- Back-office – Applications and systems that support your operations – think finance/accounting, HR, inventory management, etc. – can help you accelerate processes, improve efficiency and quality, and reduce costs.
- Business-specific – There may be any number of specialized applications that provide capabilities unique to your business or industry. Often, these systems can deliver distinct competitive advantage or, at the very least, provide capabilities that customers consider to be “table stakes.”
2. Familiarize yourself with a few key concepts.
You don’t need to know the difference between a router and a switch, or be able to provision a server, but there are a few key concepts it helps to understand so you can make good technology decisions for your business.
- Cloud – More and more applications are available as cloud-based solutions, and that’s great for growing businesses. Unlike on-premises software, cloud apps don’t require you to invest in hardware to run the applications, they don’t require you to maintain and upgrade them (the vendor takes care of that automatically), you only pay for what you use, and they are usually easy to scale up as your business expands.
- Mobility – There are a wide range of technologies that enable employees and businesses to be productive while on the go, whether that’s from home, while traveling, or even within the business. Because cloud-based applications can be accessed from anywhere with a browser, they are a component of mobility. Smartphones and tablets, as well as WiFi, are other important elements in a mobility strategy.
- Interoperability – When you make an individual technology decision, you want to understand how that fits into your business’ overall technology environment. For example, the decision to use PCs or Macs could depend on the software you need to run. Or if you are looking to implement a marketing automation tool, you may pick one over another because of its ability to integrate with the customer relationship management system you already have in place.
- Business continuity and disaster recovery – Nobody likes to plan for the worst, but when disaster strikes, you want to have a plan in place. And don’t just plan for catastrophes; the chance of losing power for a day or two are higher than that of being hit by a tornado (or hurricane, or earthquake) so think about what the impact would be and how you can keep your business running during these types of disruptions as well.
- Outsourced IT – As your business grows, your IT needs will grow and you’ll need expertise to support it all. The good news is that you don’t have to add to the payroll. Outsourced IT can give you the technical support you need without increasing employee headcount.
3. Build technology into your planning process.
When you develop your business growth plans, incorporate technology into the process right from the start. Know the pivot points in your business – such as a certain number of employees or volume of orders – that could trigger the need for a technology change. Understand the economic and operational impact; in addition to the investment, this includes potential savings and efficiencies, as well as opportunities to transform your business. Once you have clear goals, you can evaluate the results, giving you empirical data to continue to drive further growth on an ongoing basis.