Small business owners value new technologies but find choices can be overwhelming
When it comes to return on investment (ROI), small business owners are sold on technology. Results from the fifth annual Brothers Small Business Survey, show survey participants believe the use of computing and digital technologies helps with increases in efficiency and keeping business running smoothly.
In fact, 72 percent of the 500 small business surveyed indicate that new technology will actually provide a bigger ROI than employees – although this is no sign small business owners are not hiring. Our recent Plantronics Workplace Flexibility Survey indicated that 50 percent of small business owners plan to hire new or additional staff in the next 12 months. That’s up 8 percent from 2012.
Challenge to keep up with technology
The Brother Small Business Survey also found despite their reliance on new technology, small business owners find it difficult to keep up with every technology innovation. Sixty-three percent of participants are frequently overwhelmed with the number of technologies available to run their businesses.
Among the technology tools small business owners find necessary to run their businesses, mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – top the list at 41 percent. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools at 32 percent, social technologies at 21 percent and cloud services at 15 percent also are considered necessary.
Take time to make tech decisions
When it comes to technology purchases, take your time. Assess what you need today with an eye toward the next several years. Microsoft offers several suggestions to keep in mind as you evaluate your needs and new technology offerings in “3 Things You Need to Do when Choosing Technology for Your Business,”
Know that “free’ often comes at a cost: However, compelling free may be, there are downsides. For one thing, free software, for example, may have features you need, but may pose a challenge getting it to interface with your business applications. “Free” also means you don’t get tech support when something goes wrong.
Choose IT solutions that can multi-task: When choosing an application or service to accomplish a single task, think through related tasks and look for an offering that lets you do more than one thing and also enhance productivity.
Give yourself options: Technology you choose should give employees many options for communicating with each other as well as with customers. Unified Communications (UC) is a great example of technology that provides a range of communications options. As an example, you might get a call from a customer asking for some information that you don’t have but you know a colleague does. With your UC system, you can use presence to confirm your colleague is available and then launch a video conference with all participants to address your customer’s needs.
If you’re still not sure if a particular technology will work for you, find out if you can trial a solution before making a final decision. This way you can see how much you gain in operational efficiency and productivity before signing on the dotted line.