Technology has been part of human existence for millions of years – before we were even humans, in fact. And over the millennia, the idea of technology has been geared to doing one specific thing: making our lives a lot easier. From the stone tools used by our ancient ancestors to the smartphone you might be reading this on now, technology has played an important role in our development as a species. But is technology helping or hindering our lives and business?
However, just because technology is supposed to help us, it doesn’t mean it always goes as planned. And today, with so many tech options for businesses available, the simple fact is that it can just as easily hinder our progress and productivity as much as help us. The big question is, how can you tell?
Today, we’re going to explore the impact technology can have on your business, and help you see where things are going right – and where they are going wrong. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know to ensure tech is progressing your business rather than slowing it down to a snail’s pace.
OK, so before we get started, it’s important to understand where we have come from. Let’s take communications in business as an example. During the last century, the contemporary office wasn’t too different from the one from the decade that preceded it. Sure, computers started to make an appearance, but with things like communication, telephones and the printed word remained the primary methods of getting messages across. Compare this to today, however, and there is a stark difference.
Now, the technology we use has fundamentally altered the way we interact with each other. And it’s changing constantly, with new methods seemingly arriving every week – or even every day.
Smartphones, apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, VoIP – they are all used by most businesses today. And even the way we communicate our marketing has changed dramatically. It’s websites and social media that attract a lot of the advertising spend, rather than the old methods of print, newspapers and TV or radio. Interestingly, though, this is an area where the problems with technology might start to become clear.
Remember when social media first started to become a platform for businesses to market themselves? Do you recall the time that marketers started telling us that old-school advertising was dead? Have you ever been persuaded by an SEO expert that content is king and your website is better than a radio or TV ad? Well, how did those predictions turn out?
The truth is that TV, direct mail, billboards, and all those other kinds of traditional advertising methods are working just as well as ever. Predictions of their demise have been over exaggerated – significantly. The platform may have changed, for sure – look at email becoming the ‘new’ direct mail, for example’ – but ultimately, marketing is marketing, and advertising is advertising, just as it always has been.
But what does become clear is that we have all been a little too trusting in technology. The spend in social media and content has gone through the roof – and in the vast majority of cases, it’s been to little effect. And when you consider the astonishing amount of ad fraud that goes on these days, the truth is that the entire ad industry doesn’t really have a clue what is going on – or what it is paying for.
As you can see, tech can be a hindrance for advertisers – so let’s take a look at how you, as a small business, can make sure you don’t make similar mistakes.
Assessing your technology needs
According to the HBR, you need to consider two factors when choosing whether or not to invest in tech. You have to establish the impact each piece of tech will have on your organizational time, and then consider whether or not you could create new processes instead of wasting your money. Let’s drill down a little further.
Impact on Organizational Time
OK, so first of all, will the technology you buy enable your workforce to do more in less time? For example, you might hire a software development company to build an app for your in-house IT team that reduces the need for manual input and automates some of their daily tasks.
However, you need to watch out for an easy trap that many people fall into. Technology is often used as a way to make work and collaboration easier, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you will save time – it could go the opposite way. Research suggests that almost 60% of employees have to consult with at least 10 colleagues while using collaborative software every day. And half of those people need to engage with 20 people – an astonishing amount of bureaucracy that goes against everything technology should be.
So, think carefully and be diligent and highly disciplined in managing your time so you have a better idea of how tech might help.
Current Operational Issues
Don’t necessarily expect technology to be a solution to operational problems. The truth is that a lot of tech investment these days is down to bad behaviours and habits, or poor procedural policies. Tech won’t change these issues – and it could even make them worse. It’s essential that you take stock of all your operations beforehand to ensure that you are working optimally beforehand.
Of course, there is a huge consumer element to technology these days. Give your employees access to Facebook, or a WiFi password for their smartphone, and there’s a good chance they will be less productive as a result. There are plenty of debates on whether or not tech is making us lazy, unhealthy – and even affecting our mental health as private citizens. And you should be having that debate when it comes to tech for your business, too.
But even standard business tasks take up valuable time – and it’s all down to technology. How many emails do you respond to every day – and how long does it take? Research shows that many managers only have 6 1/2 hours of interrupted time per week to get their work done, and technology is the main culprit.
Finally, in days gone by business owners only needed to focus on one particular area of security. Make sure your shop or office is locked up, with all windows shut and alarmed, and the chances are you would come in the next day to everything as you left it. These days, however, IT security has entered the frame – and it’s a worrying area that many business owners cannot get a handle on.
Hackers, viruses, malware, fraud – it’s all easier to do online than it ever was to physically break into somewhere. And the reality is that all this IT security takes time to set up, maintain, update and repair. Sure, technology can have some wonderful benefits to the workplace, and it can help you attract people from all over the world to your business. But when you open the door, you have to remember that not everyone visiting your site is doing so with good intentions.
To conclude, of course, technology benefits your business. But that’s not to say it’s without issues. As a business owner, it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of believing tech will solve your problems, boost your tech, or, indeed, is entirely necessary. Think carefully before you invest in a new program, software or app, or it may do more harm than good.