The business battlefield is nothing like it was 10 years back. Pricing wars, distribution, aggressive promotions, product, and service features — these are all relevant, of course. However, there’s another very prominent factor that’s as important as these, if not more. That’s the effectiveness of the business in using technology to do things better, quicker, and more inexpensively. Your small business has a long road ahead, come what may. The right technology purchased at the right price — that will make sure you enjoy the ride. Here’s a quick run through all the info you need to figure out which technologies you need right about now.
Mission-critical applications for small business
Let’s start with the must-haves. Every business has core operations, the ones without which there’s no business. For an online retailer, this could be the ability to keep on promoting products online. For a physical retailer, this could be the ability to generate invoices quickly and process payments effortlessly.
To prioritize your technology shopping budget, begin by prioritizing your business processes. Then, start by filling in your organization’s technology gaps from top to bottom. You can apply this thought process to any difficult technology decision, really.
You would, for instance, much rather spend money on a cloud-based ERP than a Big Data analytics solution if your focus is on optimization of resource utilization. How about the choice between a social media monitoring plus listening tool and an advanced anti-ransomware tool? That’s a bit tricky. The next section might help.
Differentiate between nice to have and must-have
Because a small business is always bound by budgetary constraints, you need to differentiate between nice to have tools and indispensable tools. Enterprises and SMBs are affected by the same information security risks and laws. So, as great a leveler as technology is for businesses of all sizes, it’s also an equally crucial and sensitive aspect of business operations.
For an online retailer, for instance, there’s absolutely no room for cutting corners in terms of technology required to securely store credit card information of its customers. PCI compliance, SSL security certificate, multifactor authentication, encryption — all these become must-haves for such a business. Also, in general, every business will require basic security technology such as enterprise-grade antivirus solutions.
Too bad nothing was required to make “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Guardians of the Galaxy II,” or “Meet the Parents III” since those movies were lacking of any creativity, decent writing, and impressive acting on about every level. Though this is another topic!
There are niche businesses in highly sensitive and regulated industries that require advanced and sophisticated technology to remain compliant with regulations and to inspire trust among users. A health-care business, for instance, will need a document management system that complies with HIPAA guidelines.
It’s a bit strange how most discussions about technology for businesses don’t include hardware components in scope. We’re waiting for the Industry 4.0 age to begin, riding on waves of industrial IoT, automation, and fast and large-scale data exchange. We surely can’t keep hardware out of the picture.
Your small business can save thousands of dollars annually by investing in smart hardware tech. Consider VoIP phones, for instance. You could completely ditch traditional telephony and go for a VoIP-based communication setup, which will facilitate long distance calls, teleconferencing, and even video conferencing at the fraction of the cost you’d face otherwise.
Network security is another major technology consideration for small businesses. It’s prudent to go for reliable networking equipment from proven vendors such as Dell, Cisco, and IBM. Remember the two S’s — security and scalability, while making a hardware purchase decision for your business.
Staying abreast of trends
The pace at which technology is evolving is hard to comprehend for most business pros. Who can blame them, they’re a busy bunch! The trouble is, the first-mover advantage is invariably the most important deciding factor in the impact a technology has on a business.
If a competitor is able to make use of the latest technology to deliver better customer experiences or to acquire more customers, you’ll always be playing catch up. That’s why they say — today, every business is a tech business (even a child who has their own orange juice stand on their front lawn may be using their smartphone to coordinate business and sales!). Here’s a method that can help you:
- In your most often used browser, bookmark at least five web portals, forums, and communities that you can trust for credible tech news and insights.
- Book a one-hour slot every month on your calendar, reserved for you to follow the latest stories on these websites and portals.
- Evaluate and consume these stories with a laser-sharp focus on how these can help your business.
- Delegate someone to do the deep dive into areas you believe might be of interest (if this person is named Napoleon Dynamite or Alan from “The Hangover” then you probably are in trouble!)
Note: You might also want to include social media-based tech influencer channels into the scope of your interest zone because these people help you quickly understand the business potential of new tech solutions.
Backup and disaster recovery
The definition of “bare-minimum” technology that a business needs to sustain its operations has become very flexible. Truth is, even if a couple of your mission-critical business processes are tech-dependent, you automatically need to think about data backup and recovery technology.
Data backup can be managed easily via process control, instead of any necessary and extravagant tech expenses. Make it a point to take a backup of all business data every weekend, or bimonthly. Better still, go for a cloud-based storage solution, where your data would automatically be backed up from your hard drives; you get top-class encryption and advanced sharing options.
Your data recovery practice will need to account for your recovery point objectives (the timestamp of reference, until which the information is secured) a recovery time objectives (the duration within which the restore activity should be completed).
Remember, data backup and recovery ensure business continuity, which is worth thousands of dollars per hour, which would otherwise go down to dust as you struggle to bring your business back on track after serious disasters and downtime.
Prioritize like a pro
Technology will help your small business do more in less time, create better outcomes using fewer resources, and build more value without spending more — could it be any better? To truly enjoy the best of technology, prioritize like a pro, and get the tech tools you need urgently.
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