A survey published in the MIT Sloan Management Review reported that the majority of managers believe that the right tech tools can have a major impact on a business’s productivity and profits. On the other hand, they also reported frustration at “how hard it is to get great results from new technology.”
So the question is, how do you increase the return on investment (ROI) for the dollars and time you spend finding and integrating technology? Here are a few steps you can take to help you get the most payback for your technology dollars.
Take a close look at your business and determine where new technology can make a real difference in your day-to-day operations. You can start this process by listing the top three tasks that are key to your success. Then, list the technology that enables you and your team to efficiently and expertly complete this work. Chances are you have gaps or upgrades that, if addressed, would make a big difference. Would mobile access via smartphone help employees be more productive? Are you using the latest version of customer relationship management (CRM) software, or are you still tracking clients with a Rolodex? Do you have up-to-date collaboration tools to ease document-sharing, conference calls and video conferences? Are you taking advantage of apps and cloud-based technology that could help you run a more secure business? Start with the tools that would get the most use in your workplace, and focus on them first.
MIT Sloan Management Review research shows that when employees are involved in decisions about where technology will be applied in a company, businesses do more with the technology they buy.
Canvas employees to find out what slowdowns cause them problems and what business problems they need to solve to improve productivity. Keep your team focused on the business challenges they need help with, as opposed to asking them to recommend specific tech tools. Once you understand where technology can help best, you can determine what to buy. Consider creating a tech-specific suggestion box or calling a staff meeting where everyone can openly discuss their needs. Make sure your employees know that their input is not only wanted but also essential to the upgrade process.
Ask about options and upgrades
When you identify technology with the greatest potential to help your business, always ask vendors what else may be bundled with it or what kinds of extra services they can give. For example, if you purchase a certain number of laptops, your vendor might be able to provide free extended warranties or add free extra services to your maintenance contract.
Ask questions about whether you can bundle the tools with additional tech support, software or training. This is a better method than always looking for the lowest price, because a “value” approach to technology tends to pay off better than a bargain-hunting mindset.
Use technology to its full potential
Once the new hardware, software or services have been installed, be sure to schedule training sessions for everyone who will be using them. Technology can be a huge asset, but only if it is used properly. To increase return on technology investments, be sure employees know how to get full use out of their tools. Features that may not be immediately apparent or “out of the box” may be the greatest time-saving or customer-pleasing features. The time and money spent on training typically pays back many times over.
Keeping your company’s tech current is an ongoing process. Upgrades are often essential to the continued smooth operation of technologies, and newer versions of something you own may include just the feature you need in your company. Consider assigning an employee to regularly review technology options in the areas that are most important to you. A consultant can also perform this function for you; if you go this route, be sure to devote adequate time to letting the person know what matters most to your business, so that he or she can keep an eye out.
As always, be wary of technological bells and whistles — only add what you need to support your areas of priority.
Subscribe to a selection of trade, industry and consumer magazines, such as Computerworld, PC Magazine or Macworld, to follow trends in technology. Publications like these feature case studies, technology reviews and annual buying guides that can be used as reference and learning tools. Also consider becoming more active in your professional and trade organizations. Many of them offer conferences, e-newsletters and topic-specific online forums about technologies that fit your industry’s needs.
Stay in contact with your vendors and service providers. Not only do they know their products, they also know which specific products you have installed and how you are using them. Many vendors send upgrade notices, information on new versions that have additional features, and information on related products. While this is sales material for sure, this information may also be exactly what you need to know.
Technology investments can be a game-changer for your company, but you have to make the right selections and follow through on the details if you want to get the most benefit from your upgrades. With some research, communication and good planning, every technology dollar will be well spent.
It’s a good idea to crunch the numbers on all your business investments. For guidance on how to do a numbers-based ROI calculation, see ‘How to Calculate an ROI’.Print this article