With economists whispering terms like "double-dip recession" and "second down turn", it is no surprise business owners are searching for ways to make the most out of their limited financial resources.
Organizations have been holding back on spending money through the last two years. At the corporate level we have limited our spending, tightened our belts and cut costs where it makes sense to. Our employees have been fighting the good fight with us: cutting costs, working to raise revenue and staying loyal to their employers.
Business owners must continue along this path in finding new opportunities for resiliency. Some economists see the "light at the end of the tunnel" however the distance will vary for many companies. Looking for the next opportunity to meet these tough challenges is a must.
New technology advances have increased the speed at which business's operate. Owners have found ways to leverage this technology for a competitive advantage by enabling collaboration, mobility and presence management. They have used these capabilities to become more proficient with the resources they have.
Companies are empowering employees that are working from home like they never have before. Collaborative tools such as video and audio conferencing make better sense than booking hotels and flights. Employers are using presence management systems to keep team members abreast and responsive to customer's needs at the touch of a button.
Looking for the next opportunity to meet business challenges? Use mobility tools to work efficiently while outside the office. To minimize costs and exposure, employers are searching cloud computing and the newest opportunities in hosted environments. Businesses are migrating away from analog and adding more IP devices on to their network such as phones and security cameras to become more efficient.
If you are looking to continue to make gains, technology will definitely get you there. However, if you really want to make gains for your organization, you must approach it differently from other purchases.
When you are seeking legal advice, you turn to an attorney to assist you. When tax time rolls around, you call upon your knowledgeable CPA. Doing so saves you thousands of dollars, sometimes more.
It is the same case with technology. Developing a long-term trusted relationship with a reliable resource who carries an in-depth knowledge about technology is something every business needs. The challenge is finding that "right" relationship.
We all have friends and family who are tech-savvy. We normally turn to them first. But a worthy technology advisor should be a person trusted to understand your business—the cycles, the culture, and the challenges you face, whether they be technology or workforce related. Your advisor should understand the potential in your business goals and offer technology based solutions to help you achieve those goals.
How do you know when you have a credible trusted advisor?
- Can you talk openly with them about your detailed business objectives? Search for an advisor who is truly interested in your company and how to make it advance with technology. Are they looking at the benefit for your business and not focusing only on a product?
- Can they explain the pros and the cons regarding solutions? Explain your problem to them and see what they would recommend. Ask what their experience has been with that technology? Are they applying the pro and con logic to the business as a whole?
- What is their vested interest past the initial deployment of technology? When faced with a concern, do they immediately suggest a new product to provide the fix? Do they consider other solutions like a reconfigure of your existing technology or a change in process? Do they give consideration to the growth trend of your business? Ask how their solution applies to your current business trend or objectives.
- Are they experienced? Talk with them about your long-term IT strategy and ask if they have seen the trend or issue before. Ask why others have selected them for this same advice. Don't be shy in asking them to prove themselves to you since you are willing to risk your company's virtual life.
Having a meaningful trusted relationship with someone who understands your business and cares about your success can lead you to the information necessary to find the right technology for your needs and avoid wasting money.
What's the value?
What makes technology powerful is its usefulness in your business, which is not necessarily reflected in the purchase price. Buying a camera that has a wide array of capabilities is only useful when the features are actually utilized to their fullest.
Acquiring technology systems by looking at the bottom-line purchase price is one of the most common errors businesses make. The cost of technology only begins at the purchase price. The true costs include installation, service, support, management and administration. Additional outlay is found in the training of users, insuring equipment and upgrading features to increase performance. At worst, there is the expense of having to replace a system before it fails, simply because it cannot adapt to your company's ever changing environment. All of which cost you money and productivity.
This is where that "Trusted Advisor" comes in. They can help you foresee the true costs of implementing a new technology and clarify why you should or shouldn't do so.
Just because the lights are on...
The sophisticated technologies available today may seem expensive but, in truth, can save your business money in the long term. Using technology can save your business money today and into the future.
For instance, an IP communications solution can drastically reduce your business's long distance charges and other communications costs. These communications systems have become incredibly easy to use and feature-rich. After training employees and acclimating them to new processes, organizations find these systems can have a very attractive ROI.
Shifting the buying paradigm
Technology makes businesses more competitive, but sometimes the cost of ownership is too high to make the initial investment seem worthwhile. What can a business do?
Shifting the purchase arrangement to a lease could be the right option. Leasing technology has moved more mainstream as the speed of technological innovation has quickened. Many organizations are opting for a Managed Service plan. This removes the capital investment and replaces it with a fixed monthly payment.
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) design, implement, and maintain the technology solution for you. MSPs also take on the burden of insuring the equipment and providing training to your employees on how best to use the tech tools to enhance their productivity. Some Managed Service Providers "host" equipment on their premises or will support and maintain the equipment at your site. Either way, as with leasing, this arrangement allows you to conserve cash while ensuring that your technology is up-to-date and secure for the long term.
- Start with a solid set of goals and a realistic budget and then stick to it. List your short and long term technology goals and be pragmatic about your finances. With the right plan and advisor, you are more likely to get the solution you are seeking and not find yourself over budget.
- Consolidate your purchases. Think about the big picture, whole organizational view of your technology needs. Check with your advisor about options for combining multiple purchases into one transaction. Bundling products and service can often result in a lower overall costs.
The good, the bad or the ugly
Do your research. Ask others about their experiences using the technology you are considering. Other firms will give you the insight on the good, the bad or the ugly of the solution or the firm you are talking to. Contemplate how long the technology will realistically serve your organization.
Most important, never buy on impulse. With due diligence, by researching your current and future technology needs with the assistance of a trusted advisor, your technology risk will be minimized and your reward will be great.
This article originally appeared in the October, 2010 issue of InterBusiness Issues published by Peoria Magazines. Click here to view.