Technology is already the heart of your business — and of all businesses. Its infrastructure houses your data and provides access to email, the Internet, and applications. Are you taking advantage of all that it can do for your company?
By Marie Moore
In a BDC study of Canadian entrepreneurs’ investment intentions, technology — including computer hardware, software, and e‑commerce — was cited as the number one area for planned investment in 2017. So, if you are like the majority of business owners in this country, you already recognize technology’s importance. The question is, are you taking full advantage of the ways it can help your business succeed?
Consider the following five areas where technology can make an impact:
If retaining high-performing employees is a priority for your business, it’s time to recognize how much technology can play into employee satisfaction. Consider the frustration caused by using slow, outdated devices, or the gratification and success that comes from having the right equipment to perform their job — in the way they want to perform it. Technology is key to employee morale.
Especially as the labour force includes more millennials — who value flexibility even more than compensation — the way your employees prefer to work and communicate is shifting, as is their use of and attitudes toward technology. The expectation is that the tech they use for their job will be as intuitive and always-available as their personal devices, enabling simple and seamless access from anywhere. And if you have a multi-generational staff, your business needs to cater to these different work styles and cultures, or risk losing talent to competitors.
There are inevitably times when your employees come into the office and printer X or server Y isn’t working. If it happens often, it means you’ve purchased an inferior product, or you’ve exceeded the capabilities of your current solution. How can your employees serve customers if they don’t know whether they will be able to use their phone that day or access email?
Even if your organization isn’t missing out on sales through lost productivity caused by aging or inferior technology, there may still be opportunities for upgrades or additions that can lead to actual, quantifiable sales. Consider the benefits of providing instant and intimate connectivity to customers, regardless of their location, using video conferencing, or the advantage of a timely response, enabled by giving your employees access to email and important documents wherever, whenever.
Have you ever connected your phone to a store’s free Wi-Fi before? Every time you log in — or simply walk by another location — there is a connection made with their server that allows each location to understand internal traffic, street traffic, demographics, popular times, and more. This allows management to proactively staff for the busiest periods, push deals and samples when there is high foot traffic, and decipher what amount of goods they need at each location.
As more and more devices connect, companies have the potential to collect tons of data that can transform their current business practices and create new opportunities. However, as the name suggests, “big data” can be daunting — and the struggle lies not only in how to best access it, but also in how to use it.
The best place to start is to consider how your business operates, and how you interact with your customers. Are you a retail company with inventory? Do you have a physical location or are you using e-commerce? You could be collecting data on in-store or online orders (or both). You could also be tracking a product’s popularity by region, for example, to understand purchasing trends and enable proper inventory management. Offering Wi-Fi to your own customers enables marketing push notifications for promotions and insight, plus data collection on volume, popular times, and popular locations. The better you can predict, the better and more profitable your business can be.
As your business starts growing, you’ll find a host of new opportunities become available — as well as a new set of challenges. Technology, when employed smartly, can help turn more of these nice-to-have problems into major wins.
Expansion could require outfitting a larger office, or balancing an increasingly remote workforce. The key is to evaluate your current space and the ways people interact and work within it, so you can make informed changes for the future. Business growth can also lead to supply chain and sales complexity. You may have started out dealing with a handful of suppliers or a predictable group of customers, only to enter a logistics nightmare as orders increase. When you can no longer rely on eyeballing inventory, it’s time to employ a technology solution.
Businesses are rapidly becoming more digital — think about how you hail a ride, book a trip, and the bank account you carry in your pocket — and customer demands for seamless, immediate service are increasing. This is why you should be thinking about digital transformation — applying technology within your organization to deliver more profitable revenue, greater competitive advantage, and higher efficiency – even if you aren’t in the tech industry.
According to Gartner, 75 per cent of businesses will be digital businesses, or will prepare to become digital businesses, by 2020 — but digital transformation will not look the same for each one. What is most important is that you identify the areas within your organization that will most benefit from new technologies, and begin there. These projects will reap you the most success, and provide valuable learnings for subsequent initiatives.
The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.