Technology and small business go hand-in-hand. The premise is fairly simple — most technology solutions offer a level of automation that can handle increased workloads, giving you the ability to take on new business, expand to more regions and enter new markets. However, not all technology investments are created equal and some will provide clear advantages over others. For 2013, here are three approaches you can utilize to ensure you’re getting the most out of your technology investments.
As a growing small business, leverage the expertise and economies of scale that vendors can provide when appropriate. Rather than trying to build out ancillary departments, you can orient your workforce around your business expertise so that your long-term human capital costs align with your long-term sales strategies. By utilizing strong service-based outsourcing firms for operational needs — like IT, accounting or HR — you’ll spend less time hiring, maintaining and evaluating fringe staff. This will give you more time to focus on your strengths.
- Convenience: Outsourcing allows you to avoid recruiting a team in areas where you’re unsure of the leading indicators of quality. Their years of experience in finding qualified staff will invariably trump yours.
- Better Scale: Outsourced partners for departments like IT have the ability to scale up to meet your needs with far greater speed than if your business tried to do so internally.
- Fewer Commitments: Finding a strong outsourcer isn’t easy, so if obstacles arise, you are better able to cut ties. Obligations to internal staff are far greater than to those of outsourced vendors.
From sales and logistics to communications, it’s a guarantee that your business utilizes modern computing technologies. Now the next big trend is here: mobility. Devices such as smartphones, tablets, hybrids and other touch computing devices are far outpacing the desktop and laptop when it comes to rate of innovation, development and mindshare. As a result, your team should look to leverage mobile technologies sooner rather than later.
- Simplified Interfaces: Mobile interfaces avoid information overkill — increasing productivity by decreasing the confusion inherent in multitasking. Because mobile applications are usually smaller in-scope, they tend to focus on only the most critical features.
- Constant Connectedness: Form factor, performance and battery life aside — these devices provide ways to be in communication with your team with absolutely zero downtime. Constant access to email, messaging and the Internet ensure less information latency.
- Built-in Security: As opposed to traditional PC systems — mobile software can’t access your entire device’s file system — ensuring fewer security issues and greater ease-of-mind over company data.
Mind Your Data
In the past five years, advances in computing technology have driven the growth of large-scale data collection. More recently, however, the focus has shifted across all verticals from data acquisition to “data-curation.” Gain key insights into your business by utilizing the right tools — a proven strategy for creating greater value from the same set of resources.
- Web Optimization: A strong web presence is mandatory for the majority of today’s small businesses. Site monitoring tools like Google Analytics allow you to monitor web traffic, view patterns and better-understand your most effective Internet marketing strategies so that you make the most of your Internet reputation.
- Project Tracking: Understand resource expenditures on business projects by utilizing tools like Basecamp and Harvest to track time and cost allocation. Find out whether your project plans are realistic, and if not, determine why there are gaps between projected project expenditures.
- Sales Monitors: Spreadsheets are familiar and straightforward but leave a lot to be desired in terms of providing actionable insight. Cloud-based solutions such as Salesforce can show you when, how and where your customers are spending, leading to better knowledge about how your business development team is doing.
When implemented correctly, an innovative technology strategy can play a key role in helping small businesses take a step towards their next phase of growth and increase their size and scale of operations without overstretching resources. Technology helps small businesses and start-ups do more with less and better positions them to compete with larger enterprises.