Having the right technology is a key part of improving productivity and driving growth for businesses of all sizes, across all sectors. We’ve outlined how you can approach this in the next days, months and year.
Research by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte has shown that more digitally mature companies innovate at far higher rates than their less digitally developed counterparts, significantly improving their own confidence about their future prospects.
Given the advancements in technology over recent years, many businesses have been working through long term plans to update their technology infrastructure. That process has been greatly accelerated in recent months as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown, which forced businesses to temporarily close their premises and shift to remote working.
Having the right technology is not only a way to improve business performance but can also be a vital failsafe as we have seen, ensuring businesses can continue to operate in difficult circumstances. This has brought considerations around the tools, security, and costs of rolling out new technology to the forefront. Reviewing and upgrading technology can be a daunting prospect, particularly where businesses have been functioning with legacy systems. However, there are methods that businesses can use to incrementally improve technology infrastructure with minimal disruption and potentially significant benefits.
First steps – the basics for technology and innovation
With the proliferation of tools and services, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to decide what tools and services are right for your business. Generally, the best approach is to focus on business needs and usability. Identify the areas where poor technology is hampering your day to day operations and the pain points that existing technology is creating for staff.
In some instances that will be investment in new equipment, but it could also be taking simple steps to move files to the cloud, allowing them to be accessed out of the office and enabling remote work. If you are ready to use more advanced technology, it could be digitising elements of your enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management, payments, or sales channels.
To decide what stage your business is at, take stock and carry out an audit of your existing technology. This should help you understand what you already have, where it is working well and where there are improvements to be made.
Steps to take and issues to consider
- Compile a list of all the technology you are using
- Calculate your existing technology costs
- Decide which technologies are vital to the operation of your business
- What are your business priorities? e.g. remote working, file sharing and collaboration, digital payments, e-commerce channels, digital marketing
- Find out the level of technological competence in the business. What level of technology will staff be comfortable using?
- Assess the technology risks your business faces. Is your business capable of remote working if necessary? Can you handle payments digitally? Do you have the right data protection procedures in place?
- Align specific technology interventions with your business priorities
- Think about whether you need to make any further investments in technology
Once you have decided on your short, medium, and long-term priorities, carry out further research into the specific areas which are going to have the most impact for your business.
If that is enabling remote working and collaboration, seek feedback from employees on what technology would be most useful. It could be enabling video conferencing or workplace instant messaging to reduce email traffic and ensure meetings can take place anywhere/anytime. Look into cloud-based content management options which can enable real time collaboration on documents both internally and externally.
Technology can also play an important role in improving operational efficiency, reducing waste and optimising workflows. Throughout businesses, from inventory processes to fulfilment and project management there may be areas where you can make savings and speed up processes. Data collection and analysis tools can help to provide real time oversight of your business and inform better decision making.
Over the next six months
Using new technology will usually require a period of adjustment whilst the business familiarises itself with new tools and processes. However, it should ultimately be intuitive to use, saving time and effort and reducing friction in your operations. Rolling out new technology should be treated as a welcome opportunity for innovation and should improve how you do things. To minimise disruption, you should avoid introducing too many new pieces of technology at once, as this is likely to create confusion within your workforce.
Once you have made the decision to introduce new technology, communicate your plan clearly to the business and provide training to those who will be using unfamiliar tools. There are an array of resources for most enterprise tools available for free online, both from vendors and users and there may well be people already in your business, who have experience in using a particular piece of technology. Bring those people on-board, the best advocates for changing the way you work tends to be colleagues and peers.
It can be a helpful practice to establish a timeline and set of objectives when you start out to make sure you see technology changes through:
- Identify a new solution
- Identify key stakeholders within the business whose roles will be affected by new technology
- Decide on your criteria for success
- Communicate the change
- Train and encourage adoption
- Monitor the impact
Over the next year
In most businesses there will be a degree of “low hanging fruit” – technology changes which can be made with smaller investments in cost and time which still yield positive results. Continue to implement these incremental changes whilst identifying more complex areas where new technology may be able to help. In instances where deployments have been successful, consider whether they can be scaled up from parts of the business affecting small teams, to larger teams or the entire business.
For better and for worse, technology is constantly evolving. There are always new products and services coming to the market and over the course of a year a lot will inevitably change. Even if you do not intend to update your technology that regularly, it will still be helpful to do some reading and stay aware of new enterprise technology.
- Identify trends in staff and customer preference. Are there new channels your customers are using that you should consider adopting? Are there ways to improve internal collaboration?
- Identify potentially high value areas of digitisation that can improve productivity
- Embed technology throughout your business
- Keep an eye on the returns from any investments in new technology
Bear in mind that successful technological change and innovation is as much about helping people adapt to new ways of working as about having the right technology. Foster an environment of learning and openness to new technology in your business as you use new tools. Even if your teams begin to work remotely, encourage them to engage in e-learning and take part in training on digital tools. This will have a long-term positive impact on productivity as well as allowing staff to learn new skills. You will find that there are untapped digital skills in your business that you can help to unlock. Following these areas of focus and adopting small changes can make technology work for your business and present new opportunities that you may not have considered.