Think back to when technology really took off. The Internet dates back to 1969, but it was during the mid-1990s when global connectivity really took off, a time when every household could have a personal computer and all could be linked in to the World Wide Web.
Software costs aren't always so cheap, especially when it comes to buying user licenses for your employees. And support costs are even more expensive
Around the same, cellphones also became universal with newer, smaller models seeming to arrive every other week. When the new millennium rolled around, technology was streamlined and affordable, making it easy for just about anyone to put those capabilities to work in starting and running a small business. Eureka!
But as technology continues to evolve, there's now cause for concern: Has it all become technological clutter and is it weighing you down? See how to find the right balance for your business.
What is the cost?
While technology today promises to help you cut costs by cutting through the complexity of performing business tasks, there's an up-front cost.
Generally speaking, hardware costs are relatively cheap today compared to 10 years ago. Software costs, however, aren't always so cheap, especially when it comes to buying user licenses for your employees. And support costs are even more expensive.
Do you need help installing the technology? Do you need someone on the supplier side on call in case you have a problem? And if you skimp on support, what might that cost your business if the technology fails? These are the basic costs to consider as you invest in technology for your business, but there's one more that's even more costly: your business' time.
When you decide to incorporate technology into your business, be it a suite of office productivity tools, specialized inventory and order management solutions, or even Internet access, you need to spend time investigating, evaluating, testing, and choosing that technology. That often means you or some of your best employees have to step away from usual tasks to determine what technology you'll purchase.
Before you've ever handed over your credit card or signed a purchase agreement, you've already spent time (which will very well equal money) on the technology. And so the question arises: What technology do you really need?
Be tight-fisted when it comes to spending money on technology … You need a solid case for making the spend
What's the return?
One of the best ways to keep technology from taking over your business is to take the cheapskate's approach: Why do I need to spend money on this?
There are technologies you'll need to spend on to do business: Internet access, payment processing, Web development, phone (landline or cellular), and so on. That technology has become as basic as lights and plumbing to a business.
But where things go awry is where technology solutions you choose do so much more than you need, when they're very complex, and they require full-time maintenance and monitoring by someone on the payroll (be that a direct employee or a contracted support technician).
Does your business really need all that? And if so, can you objectively demonstrate when your cost incurred will be recouped and surpassed by an increase in revenues?
Resist the pitch of the technology salespeople. There's no doubt that much—if not all—of what they promise can come true, but do you really need it? Your safest bet in adopting technology for your business it to clearly determine the following:
- What problem are you trying to solve with the adoption of technology?
- What is your budget for the technology (including support)?
- What is the expected lifespan of the technology (watch out for the need to purchase and manage upgrades again and again)?
- What is your potential to scale up the technology as our business grows?
- What is the impact to your business if you don't purchase the technology?
Technology keeps our businesses visible, connected and capable of reaching and serving our customers. Technology alone, though, doesn't make the business successful
Be tight-fisted when it comes to spending money on technology (or on anything, really) for your business. You need a solid case for making the spend far beyond the it's-what-the-other-businesses-are-doing groupthink. When you filter technology implementations through the lens of money out of your pocket, you're in a good place for controlling its infiltration into your business.
Are you in control?
Now, this isn't to criticize technology and what it can do for your business. On the contrary, technology is a necessary component of every business today. To enter into and be competitive in your business, you have to adopt technology.
Yet, you also need to ensure you're in control of your technological investments. If you're constantly purchasing upgrades or add-ons, or hardware swaps, you might be serving the technology instead of it serving you.
If your technology is performing poorly and costing you interruption to your daily business, you might be at its mercy. And if you're buying solutions but can't really determine just how they've improved your business' results, you're certainly wandering down a precarious path.
Technology keeps our businesses visible, connected and capable of reaching and serving our customers. Technology alone, though, doesn't make the business successful.
A careful infusion of technical capability matched by a business method and process (including a fall-back plan if the technology is ever disrupted), can help a business earn and achieve more than without it. But it takes a watchful eye and a wise intellect to decide just how much technology is enough and how much is too much.