As we draw closer to the 2020s, every business has become a tech business. Digital communications technology and discrete applications have transformed the way in which enterprises of all shapes and sizes do business and interact with their clientele. Some of these changes have been relatively small and unnoticeable, like switching from traditional phone lines to VoIP lines to reduce the cost of outgoing calls. Some, however, are much bigger and more sweeping like when businesses close the doors on their physical premises and devote all of their energies to making money through ecommerce.
No matter what you do, whom you do it for or what the size and scope of your business operations, there’s an excellent chance that technology can help you to expand your reach, make your operations more efficient and build value in your brand. And while there are some who are still resistant to the changes that come with integrating new tech into business operations, the vast majority embrace it. But that can be both a blessing and a curse!
Tech is changing businesses, forever!
Look around you and you’ll see a plethora of exciting innovations that are slowly but surely changing businesses of all kinds across a wide range of industries and sectors. You’ll see drones making deliveries. You’ll see customers wearing VR headsets perusing virtual stores. You’ll find businesses using augmented and virtual realities for training and assessment. And, of course, you’ll see businesses embracing all manner of digital tech to facilitate their daily operations.
It’s safe to say that the business world is in love with tech. And like all love affairs, it can be intoxicating. New enterprises keen to show off their tech savvy can invest heavily in business tech without thinking the viability of their investment through. This in turn can place a stranglehold on their cash flow. Thus, before investing in business tech, you should ask yourself these essential questions.
Can someone else do it?
Perhaps it might be more prudent to outsource some of your operations to third parties that you find on Sortlist? This may allow you to take advantage of the benefits of beneficial technologies at a fraction of the overhead costs. Take a moment to browse through Shortlist and you’ll find a wealth of outsourced talent from web designers to app developers, PR experts and digital strategy consultants.
Not only do entities like these have access to cutting edge technologies, they also have the personnel in house to use them effectively. As such, they may be able to deploy beneficial technologies in a cost-effective and efficient manner. This approach can be highly beneficial to many businesses, especially those with growth in mind who are stretched a little too thin in terms of their operations.
How long until I start to see a meaningful ROI?
If, however, you prefer to keep everything in house, by all means invest in business tech. Just make sure that it doesn’t eat into your all-important cash flow. Maintaining liquidity is extremely important. It’s how you’re able to pay vendors, landlords and other creditors to ensure the smooth operation of your business. It’s how you’re able to keep the books balanced and prevent debt from eating away at your fragile profit margins.
But a capital investment; whether it’s in software, hardware or both can place a serious dent in your business’ disposable revenue and this in turn can place a stranglehold on your revenue. Before investing in any form of technology, you need to have a clear idea of how it will benefit your business and how much of an ROI you can expect within a reasonable timeframe.
This article gives some useful advice on how to calculate the ROI of digital and IT technology investments. The better you know when you can expect to see a return (and how much) the better positioned you are to make an informed decision as to whether that investment is right for you.
How easily can I integrate it into my operations?
Business tech has the power to completely change your operations. And it may take a while for that to become a good thing. As you established the working model for your operations, you and your employees got used to doing things a certain way.
While it’s never a good thing to get too set in your ways, the easier it is to integrate new tech into your existing operations the better. You’ll reduce profit-sapping downtime and help to keep morale up.
As such, it behoves you to learn all that you can not just about the attention grabbing features of a prospective investment but how it works. This is why free trials are so invaluable. They allow you to gauge how easily you can integrate new tech into your existing operational infrastructure without overhead costs.
How much time or capital could I lose to employee training?
This isn’t to say that you should be resistant to the notion of employee training. Far from it. A constant program of training and continuing professional development is essential in getting the most out of your workforce. It prevents talented employees from stagnating in their given roles and helps to keep them engaged. What’s more, it ensures that they feel valued and this can make all the difference between retaining them for years to come and seeing them abandon you and run into the open arms of your competitors.
Still, the downtime and disruption that come with training your employees to use this tech efficiently should certainly be factored into your decision. It can not only have a profound impact on your ROI, it will also have a potentially lasting effect on your cash flow for days, weeks or even months.
Where possible, you should always invest from a position of financial security.
Am I investing for the right reasons?
There are many reasons why a business owner might want to invest in new tech and it’s important to be honest with yourself about yours. Are you investing to futureproof your organization and ensure future profitability? Or are you keen to enjoy the positive impact that your status as an early adopter will have on your branding?
Not that this would be a fundamenta, mistake. There’s certainly PR value in being able to position yourself as a business that embraces and harnesses technological change for the benefit of your clientele. But if that is your only reason for investing, you may be crafting a rod for your own back.
This is why it’s so important to carry out cash flow analysis and ROI projections to ensure that you’re making an informed and prudent decision for all the right reasons.
What if employees or customers hate it?
Finally, as enthusiastic as you may be to integrate new tech into your operations as soon as possible, it’s important to keep in mind the possibility that not everyone will be crazy about the changes you make.
Employees become accustomed to doing things a certain way and may not necessarily be too happy about becoming consciously incompetent when they were previously unconsciously competent. All of a sudden doing the same job as become harder for them. And this may impact negatively on morale. People, let’s not forget, have an inherent fear of change.
The same goes for your customers. Customers expect consistency and many prefer the human touch. If your technology becomes something that they feel you are hiding behind, they may not be keen to embrace it.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in new tech. Just make sure you know how to counter any criticisms of this new change.