For the younger generations, the world of technology is just as much a part of them as their favorite pair of skinny jeans. However, for many of us, it can feel more like a wool sweater during a heat wave. Technology moves at lightning speed and multiplies exponentially right before our eyes and it is sometimes easier to just turn the other direction and stick with the status quo. This is an excellent strategy if you are trying to keep yourself from buying every new iteration of your favorite mobile device. However, when it comes to driving value in a company, we must don those scratchy sweaters with confidence and tackle the world of technology with an open mind, clear objectives and an eye towards the future.
A key to remember when developing your company’s technology platform is that you don’t have to have it all. Spending a small fortune acquiring or developing every type of technology that applies to your industry won’t necessarily give you an equal return on investment when it comes to bottom line value. Focusing your efforts on carefully selected technologies that have a valuable impact on operations is a much better bet in the long run. Further, it is prudent to incorporate technologies that the market and other strategic players find value in, thus allowing you to compete on a level playing field.
Here are some key technology components that have the most direct impact on business value:
Administration & Operations: A single overarching software program that integrates many aspects of your administrative operations is key. The more functions a program can bring together under one roof, the more efficient you will be. You might even find a program that is specifically designed for your industry, which can take out much of the guess work. Ideally, your main operational software should include platforms for things like accounting, financial management, payroll, human resources, job costing, inventory management, labor tracking and quality assurance. Beyond its general functions, the most vital component of your operational software should be reporting and analytics. The ability to create meaningful reports, analyze trends, and track key value metrics is an asset worth far more than the cost of the program. Further, a program that offers live reporting can help you quickly identify issues and make corrections with minimal impact on your business.
Sales & Marketing: This category can be a daunting one. There are dozens of sales and marketing programs available on the market, and while they all have similar functionality, they each offer certain unique features that would benefit your business. The key to remember here is that you don’t need every bell and whistle to effectively market your company. A sound marketing platform should give you the ability to gather data and facts, analyze trends and patterns and help you determine if your marketing is actually driving in new business. Some important components to this type of platform would be a Client Relationship Manager (CRM) such as Pipedrive or Salesforce, an automated mass-email service like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, a well-designed website that can be easily updated, and automated social media monitoring and posting if applicable to your industry.
Customer Interaction: Virtual interactions with customers is an excellent way to drive value for your company. A well-designed customer portal that allows clients to communicate with you efficiently and in real-time will not only add value, but can also significantly improve your customer retention rates. A good customer portal should have a unified communications system, a single point of access to everything the customer needs, a user-friendly and intuitive design that can be adapted to multiple viewing platforms and one-click access for support. Like Sales & Marketing, there is a plethora of customer portal software programs on the market today. Take the time to do your research, speak with multiple providers and select the program that achieves the most number of objectives while staying within your budget.
Operational & Field Technologies: This is where investing in the latest and greatest can really pay dividends. Adding or developing technologies that your competitors don’t have, or acquiring certain types of equipment or programs that allow you to offer special add-on services, will set you apart in your market and make you more valuable. This doesn’t mean you should take on every new innovation that comes out. Focus on technologies that can enhance your current service portfolio, increase productivity or add value to your customers. If there are technology or operational certifications available in your industry, those can be great value-drivers as well. They can enhance your overall service offerings and potentially open up avenues for you to pursue larger accounts that might require these qualifications from vendors.
When considering any new type of technology, it is also prudent to implement some criteria to determine whether the investment is truly worthwhile. These criteria should include a cost benefit analysis, some research and study to determine if the technology will be an added value to your customer base, and a discussion on whether to procure a pre-existing product or develop something yourself. It can sometimes be difficult to find a pre-existing product that is exactly what you are looking for; however, developing something yourself can be costly, time-consuming and hold little value if it cannot be implemented on a wider scale. Regardless of which direction you go, this analysis will help guide you in the selection process and ensure you are maximizing your technology dollars.
No matter what generation you belong to, implementing a value-driving technology platform doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With careful planning and specific objectives in mind, you can tackle the tech world head-on and become your own version of a tech-savvy millennial. Skinny jeans not required!