Running a company of any kind means that you likely spend a lot of time in planning mode, mapping out the future for various elements of your business.
Whether it’s finances, growth strategy, marketing or just about any other critical component, most small business leaders would agree that winging it rarely yields the best results. Unfortunately, I see far too many businesses doing just that in one important area: technology.
It’s entirely understandable why this is the case. Technology is often viewed as nothing more than a set of tools (and a cost center) required to get work done as opposed to a strategic element of the business. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is pervasive in companies of all sizes, so there is a natural tendency to only think about technology when something needs to be replaced. This is especially true in organizations with little or no dedicated IT staff.
Free time is an incredibly finite resource for most small business leaders, so slowing down to map out a technology plan can feel like a luxury that many cannot afford. However, dedicating some time up front can pay significant dividends in the long run. Here are four ways that your business can benefit from a formalized technology plan:
Reduce waste, reduce costs
You’re paying too much for some of the technology you use. This is true in just about any organization, but it’s impossible to identify and address inefficiencies without first taking stock of your technology resources and how they’re being used. On-premises email servers are a common offender, and many businesses have extra software licenses collecting virtual dust. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 70 percent of technology spending may be misallocated.
YOU’RE PAYING TOO MUCH FOR SOME OF THE TECHNOLOGY YOU USE.
Office real estate can be a helpful analogy for how to think about technology utilization. You wouldn’t want to pay for a space that’s twice as big as what you need, and paying for more technology than you need doesn’t make any more sense. This is one of the many areas where the cloud has been a revelation for small businesses. It reduces upfront capital expenditures and allows you to only pay for what you use, which is a tremendous boon for growing businesses and ones that require part time or seasonal workers.
Incorporating a roadmap for the adoption and deployment of technology into your overall business plan can go a long way towards ensuring resources are allocated correctly and the technology you’re paying for is actually being used. The resulting savings can help pad the bottom line or even be redirected into new technologies that drive more strategic value for your business.
Increase employee productivity and satisfaction
INFORMATION MOBILITY, HOW DOCUMENTS AND DATA MOVE THROUGH YOUR ORGANIZATION, HAS A MASSIVE IMPACT ON THE SPEED AND EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR BUSINESS.
Another area where the costs of improper planning may not be immediately apparent is how your technology helps—or hinders—your employees’ ability to get work done. We have become so dependent on technology that poor performance or lack of interoperability can be a substantial drag on productivity. Time that workers have to spend tracking down a lost file or waiting on a slow computer is time they’re not able to do their job.
Information Mobility, how documents and data move through your organization, has a massive impact on the speed and effectiveness of your business. How do your employees find and access important files remotely? Are they able to print documents from their smartphones or easily transfer a scanned contract to their device? Without proper planning, businesses often end up with a mishmash of devices and technologies that do not work well together.
The effects of poor technology planning on employees extend beyond productivity. We’ve all felt like throwing our computer out of a window after losing hours of work due to a software crash. When poor performance and ineffective technology are constant frustrations it can have a material impact on employee satisfaction, retention and even recruiting.
Identify security and compliance risks
Organizations that take a reactive approach to technology face an increased risk of data breaches or regulatory missteps. Protecting your assets requires you to first take the time to evaluate the threats that your organization faces. It’s easy to be blindsided by a crisis when you can’t see the forest through the trees.
Often the lack of planning around security stems from the fact that businesses assume they aren’t an attractive target. The reality is that you don’t have to be a global bank or a massive retailer to be at risk. Attacks on small businesses happen with alarming regularity, and the issue is compounded by the prevalence of insufficient planning.
There is also a common misconception that compliance considerations are limited to companies in highly regulated segments such as healthcare or finance. While such industries are subject to additional scrutiny, any business that accepts credit card payments, collects customer data or maintains employee records must adhere to certain compliance guidelines. Developing clear policies for how to manage and store such information will reduce your exposure for fines or other regulatory complications.
Use technology to grow your business
Taking a more strategic approach to technology planning allows you to shift your IT focus towards areas that can drive tangible business value. The resources saved through reducing wasteful spending and avoiding the costs of security breaches can be reallocated into solutions that help drive customer acquisition and retention.
Small businesses have more technologies to help them uncover valuable business insights than ever before. Solutions such as customer relationship management software, data analytics and visualization tools and enterprise resource planning suites used to be prohibitively expensive. Because of the cloud, smaller organizations can now adopt these technologies to help expand their business as well. Careful planning will allow you to identify the tools that will help you achieve your goals and ensure that they’re integrated effectively.
The axiom “measure twice, cut once” applies to most things in life, and technology planning is no different. You’ll waste a lot less time and money dealing with problems by investing some effort in a plan to prevent them in the first place.