In a 2013 survey from the National Small Business Association, it was discovered that 70% of small business owners say that keeping up with new technology is very important to the success of their business. But technology is a significant financial investment, even for established small businesses, and the number of options can be overwhelming.
In fact, according to another survey by Brother International, 63% of small business owners often feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which new technologies to adopt. Said John Wandishin, Vice President of Marketing at Brother International:
“Our survey shows that while small business owners understand the value of new technologies, they struggle with choosing the right products, as well as the right time to adopt them to have the greatest impact on their business.”
In order to help you navigate what’s what in the new technological landscape, we’ve put together the following tips to assist you in choosing technology to benefit your company.
Choosing Technology to Grow Your Business
Set Up a Budget
The cost of technology can be a significant burden for small companies. In the aforementioned NSBA survey, 44% of small business owners listed the cost of technology upgrades as their greatest technology-related challenge. For this reason, owners need to work within a pre-established budget that aligns with their company’s current financial situation and future goals. Working within a budget will help you avoid purchasing additional technological perks and add-ons your company doesn’t need.
Your budget should consider two key things:
- The cost of the technology.
- The cost of implementation.
Research your technology solutions and do your homework thoroughly beforehand to curb unexpected costs. Fixing problems and maintaining technology are two major challenges small business owners face (37% and 36%, respectively), so choosing high-quality technological solutions on the outset will save time and money down the road.
Understand Your Company’s Needs
One of the best ways to make the right technology choice and stay on budget is to figure out your company’s specific needs. As a small business owner, you want to adopt technologies that will work within your existing business and yield a concrete return on investment.
You should first identify which business processes you want to change. Do you want to make your data more secure? Or automate certain processes? Whatever your company needs, you should fully understand how a specific technology will meet them before you ever make the purchase. Additionally, there should be analytics in place to measure the technology’s ongoing effect on the company’s bottom line.
As Wandishin explains:
“It’s important to remember that technology simply cannot make up for poor processes.”
Look for Integration and Security
It is also important to make sure your new technology can be integrated with your existing systems. The majority of new devices have to be connected wirelessly, so you need to ensure that you have a reliable wireless infrastructure in place. Additionally, some technologies aren’t compatible with each other, so be sure to check your existing systems before making new purchases.
You also need to determine that your new technologies are completely secure. Small businesses often have fewer protections in place than larger companies, which makes them more vulnerable to hackers. And with the recent Heartbleed security issues, it is absolutely essential to make sure all certificates are certified, spam is blocked and all possible security measures are implemented. It is unsurprising that 42% of small business owners cited security issues as their biggest technological problem.
When asked what technologies are necessary for their business, small business owners cited the following as most essential:
- Smartphones and tablets (41%)
- Social technologies (21%)
- Cloud services (15%)
All of these technologies, if not secured properly, could absolutely lead to the theft of sensitive information. Make sure your wireless router is encrypted and that any devices on your wireless network are secured with anti-virus software. Educate your employees on which applications are safe to download on work-related devices.
Technology-related investments are the top priority for small business owners in 2014. By setting a budget, making a plan, and considering integration and security, you can be sure to choose the right technology for your company.
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