Today using technology is a must and having a technology strategy is a given.
Often we get asked by our clients, “How can I use technology to get a leg up?”
While there are typically no magic bullets, we have come across 5 technology strategies that can get you that little bit of an edge over your competition. Starting using these to develop your business technology strategy.
Strategy #1: Have a solid foundation
Every good house has a solid foundation. The same goes for your business technology. Having your core infrastructure in place will allow your business to build and grow when technology needs expand.
The first line of defense
… is a good backup and disaster recovery strategy (which could be another blog or two articles by itself). A solid 3-2-1 backup plan will keep you resting easy at night and knowing the worst can come and you can get your business running after a disaster.
The second line of defense
… is a well-defined security plan. From antivirus to firewalls and everything in between making sure your critical data is protected from ransom, theft or leaks is more critical than ever. Cisco’s 2017 Cybersecurity report says that more than 20% of companies with a security breach lost revenue.
The third line of defense
… is a handle on who has access to data and can reset passwords. By allowing your team access to only resources they need you are able to reduce the risk of data being where it shouldn’t.
Strategy #2: Automate your business
Automation is no longer a nice to have in business. It is now critical to staying competitive.
Marketing to your customers is a great way to get the word out about your company. However, emailing your list by hand or following up after an order is placed would take time and resources. By automating your email marketing with an app like Aweber or a fully automated marketing solution like Hubspot or Keap you will save time and money.
Marketing and sales are almost inseparable in today’s landscape so make sure your solutions integrate. A good sales customer relationship management database (CRM) will make sure you are following up on those sales opportunities and automating your workflows in no time.
Collecting the information to bill, setting up the invoice, sending out the invoice, collecting the payment, and following up with past due invoices is a tedious process. Automating this process with an online system such as Xero.com, Quickbooks online or FreshBooks is a great way to get paid fast and on time.
Strategy #3: Aligning business goals and technology
So you have goals for the next 3-5 years that may include increased revenue, new customers, employee retention, reducing expenses and the list goes on. Technology can help you track those goals as well as helping you to efficiently accomplish them. Many companies struggle to maintain a tight relationship between their business and IT functions. But creating an IT-enabled business strategy is worth the effort. By integrating your business and IT strategies, your organization will tend to perform better, increase revenues, and gain a competitive edge.
Project management and goal setting tools such as Trello, Asana, Dapulse, etc can increase your ability to hit the milestones on time and within budget. Follow your projects from initiation, planning, execution to finalization.
Business leaders adopting an IT first methodology
By getting IT involved in your business goals and planning up front will allow your business to reduce the number of unexpected bumps in the road later. Start by asking these 5 questions:
- How will the teams use technology and what resources do they need?
- How is the technology budget allocated among the teams?
- What are the security requirements and consideration for the different needs (ie HIPPA, PCI, COPA, etc)
- How will IT provide ongoing support for the new initiatives?
- What requirements are needed long-term for the data center or cloud storage (ie database or apps)?
Staying ahead of the curve
Your industry has probably changed in the past 10 years. Technology changes yearly if not daily in some cases. By aligning your technology and business goals on a regular basis you will be able to keep a pulse on the latest trends and industry changes that could drastically give you a leg up on your competition.
Strategy #4: Communication
Have you ever asked a team member or been asked: “I thought you were taking care of that?” It’s never fun when a ball is dropped or a problem arises from miscommunication. Fortunately, technology is a great communication tool that extends from email to chat to project management mentioned above. Tools, strategies, and workflows can make any team more efficient and productive.
Is email still viable?
E-mail has been around since 1971 and has rapidly replaced communication by phone, postal service, and fax. However, today’s newest employees coming into the workplace use email less than 6% of the time (2012 Pew study) with chat and social being the go-to platforms of choice. Alternatives to email that have become popular are team chat platforms such as Slack, Google Hangouts, Hipchat and Skype. Each one typically allowing for images, video, documents, voice and more along with the basic categorizing of chat streams.
Finding the best time to meet
Sometimes the hardest part of communicating is coming up with a time. Technology can bridge this gap by providing easy ways for a team to sync up calendars or choose times that work best for them. Shared calendars from Google’s G-Suite, Office365 or tools like Doodle or Calendly can help everyone get a time slot that works the best.
Customer feedback and follow-up
Wondering what customers think about you is not an issue these days, with Yelp and Google reviews helping customers and clients give their thoughts on their last interaction with you. With the right tools, you can get ahead of these sometimes unpleasant posts about your company with a proper customer feedback loop. Sending a simple how are we doing email after the first interaction or purchase can proactively keep customers happy and positive reviews coming your way. Also making it super easy for customers to communicate with your team via social media and your website is a must in today’s fast-paced world.
Strategy #5: Resource planning
Just like having the right ingredients for a cake having the right resources for your company is very important. Taking this one step further having the right technology resources is even more important.
Our Own IT Super Team
If you are fortunate enough to have an IT team to plan your technology strategy then you are well on your way to having the right ingredients to your superhero pie. Make sure you have the correct skill sets for your team and the proper mix of motivated and integrated culture so that they can support your business effectively. Usually, an experienced CTO or CIO in your organization will make sure your resources are allocated properly to the right projects as well as aligning the business goals with the needed technology.
Not having a whole team at your disposal doesn’t mean you can’t have a rockstar staffer with years of experience and a personality that aligns with your business culture. This person will need to lean on vendor partners and outside vCIO help to get major projects aligned as they are typically bogged down in the day to day firefighting that comes with supporting a business with technology needs.
For smaller businesses that a full-time on-site staff does not make financial sense having a technology partner to help with developing your IT strategy and keep your business running is important. You will want this partner to be involved in decisions with the business owner, president or CEO to ensure resources are allocated and proper planning can occur. A couple of questions to ask a future technology partner:
- What other companies have you helped in my industry develop an IT strategy for?
- Have you worked with companies our size before?
- What resources do you have in place for our upcoming project X?
- What is your 5-year plan, and how does that align with my business?
A well-considered IT strategy is critical for all companies, big and small. It will enable the company’s larger business strategy. The best IT strategies, however, do more than enable business planning; they actually help shape it. They will ensure that core systems run smoothly, issues are resolved swiftly, and projects are executed on time and within budget.
If you want to see more information on technology strategy, IT business strategies, strategic business technology partners, or strategies for business then let us know in the Schedule a Call button above in the additional notes. Thanks!