Before you invest in technology, consider these 5 tips
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If you’re the CEO of a small or midsize business (SMB), investing in technology is probably a top priority for you right now.
Of the top 10 investments that SMB CEOs have planned for 2018, technology easily took the no. 1 spot in the Q4 2017 Vistage CEO Confidence Index. About 43% of respondents identified it as their most important investment, followed by equipment at 27% and facilities at 12%.
What’s driving these investments is, presumably, the hope that technology will boost a firm’s productivity and performance. But this return isn’t automatic, nor is it guaranteed. To reap the gains that technology affords, small firms have to successfully integrate new technology into their business processes and then manage its implementation on a day-to-day basis.
To make this transition easier and maximize your return on investment, consider these five tips.
1. Align technology investments with investments in equipment and facilities.
Technology can be a force multiplier for growth, allowing a firm to scale more quickly and potentially compete with larger companies. But to manage this growth, you need to align your technology investments with the right investments in equipment and facilities. In other words, make sure your operational infrastructure can support the rapid growth that your company may experience as a result of new technology.
2. Put strong leadership behind change-management strategies.
When implementing new technology, you need more than just strong change-management strategies. You also need strong leaders who have the specialized knowledge to lead that change. When paired, your firm will be better positioned to evaluate, address and overcome barriers as they arise. For example, a strong leader can drive the adoption of new technologies and processes. They can also hold employees accountable for integrating new technology into their daily work, such as by entering customer data into CRM applications.
3. Invest in purpose-built applications whenever possible.
Vistage data indicates that high-growth businesses are more likely to use packaged applications, while low-growth to no-growth businesses are more likely to use home-grown solutions or no solution at all. As your business grows, you need purpose-built applications that can effectively support new employees, customers and operations. Packaged applications also tend to incorporate best practices when automating business processes. So, whenever possible, choose this option over a home-grown solution.
4. Bring in experts who can lead the implementation process.
A lot of companies try to force-fit new technology into existing processes that are customized and heavily dependent on people. This often leads to frustrated employees, dissatisfied customers and suboptimal performance. To avoid these growing pains, hire experienced developers and IT leaders who can guide the implementation process and consult on appropriate training for your employees.
5. Work toward the goal of digital transformation.
In the early days of the technology revolution, SMBs focused on digital transition; they looked for ways to apply technology to analogue processes. A classic example is when firms replaced manual processes for managing customer relationships with CRM applications. Now, as an SMB CEO, you need to go further and lead the digital transformation of your company. A digital transformation is more than a shift from paper to spreadsheet. It requires rethinking all business processes based on how technology can best manage those processes.
The good news is, technology has advanced to the point where CEOs can skip the “learn ’til you get burned” approach for building home-grown or patchwork solutions. Instead, these leaders can embrace digital transformation as a competitive advantage rather than continue down the path of technology self-discovery. It’s just a matter of making the right choice.