The following is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe. Tiffany is a Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility, where she assists clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web.
Despite what some so-called “gurus” or experts might claim, there really is no magic formula to guarantee business success. So many different factors influence any business, from the market to the leadership to circumstances you can’t even predict, that it’s all but impossible to come up with a specific formula to guarantee results for any business.
That being said, there are some commonalities among business that do succeed, and grow and thrive under even the most challenging circumstances. Leadership, talent, and resources are certainly important, but one thing that nearly all successful businesses also have in common is a commitment to investing in technology. These days, without the right IT tools and a willingness to invest, maintain, and upgrade tech resources, there is a good chance that your business is going to have a hard time remaining competitive.
Technology influences nearly every aspect of your business, from how your employees do their work every day to how you market to your customers and manage those relationships. When you don’t have the right technology in place, you will suffer consequences in both areas.
Among the effects that a lack of tech investment can have on your employees and business include:
Productivity declines. Your employees are using old computers that are slow, and need constant upgrades. They don’t have the software they need. They can’t log into your network when they’re out of the office. All of these factors can reduce productivity, and thus, profits. Imagine what your sales team could accomplish, for instance, if they were all equipped with tablets that they could use to connect to the back office and get real-time updates on stock, pricing, and production? Or if it was easier for employees to work from home?
Creativity declines. Psychologists call the difference between doing the bare minimum to get by and doing more than what is asked of you “discretionary effort.” When you don’t provide your employees with tools that can help them do their jobs more efficiently, or only give them tools that allow them to use certain solutions, then it’s likely that they will become frustrated and not consider the work important.
This leads to low discretionary effort, and a lack of innovative and creative solutions. On the other hand, when you invest in modern IT infrastructure and give your team tools to be creative, you are likely to see effort and innovation soar. For instance, providing an integrated development environment, or IDE, that assists with development tasks allows your developers to focus on more creative solutions and the “hard stuff,” not the basic tasks that take up a great deal of time.
Risk increases. In some businesses, a lack of resources from the employer leads employees to turn to other solutions to get the job done. This can create security risks to customer data and intellectual property, but also put your business at risk of sanctions stemming from the use of unlicensed software. Listening to your employees and providing the tools they need can limit those consequences.
Investing in IT is more than just giving your employees the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs. Your IT infrastructure includes the email servers you use, your web host (and the look of your site), and how you manage correspondence with your customers.
For example, the clear majority of people prefer to conduct business electronically. If you are still sending paper invoices because you have not yet established an electronic billing system, you’re not only sending the wrong message to your customers, you are also likely to be hurting the bottom line. In general, invoices that are sent electronically are paid sooner than those sent by mail, and those accounts are less likely to go into collections.
Your website and email also play a role in your business reputation. According to a Microsoft survey, 70 percent of the respondents said they are wary of sharing information on an outdated business website, while almost a quarter believe that a business using a free email service lacks credibility. In short, if you want people to take your business seriously, you need to invest in IT infrastructure that presents a professional, up-to-date image — not that you are operating out of your dining room, even if you are.
In that same Microsoft survey, almost 70 percent of the respondents noted that modern technology is a key to a successful business. So, if you are still working on five-year-old laptops, have a website that’s just as old, and your employees are doing an end run around your policies to get their work done on unapproved apps, it’s time to invest in better technology.