Think about how many distinct pieces of technology your business uses. As it turns out, “technology” is a really difficult-to-define concept. And, like breaking down matter into its component parts, segmenting commonly used business technology into its essential elements is much more difficult than it appears. Is your Google Workspace account a singular piece of technology or more than a dozen, with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, and all the rest standing on their own?
This isn’t merely an intellectual exercise. Business owners can’t properly assess and address their technological needs when they can’t even define technology itself.
So, let’s pull back a bit and attack this question from a different angle. What should you look for in your business tech solutions? And how should you choose the right piece of technology for each particular need? You’ll want to keep these five things in mind, to start.
Great Business Tech Solutions Fill More Than One Need
The best business tech solutions are multitalented. Even if they’re built around a discrete business need, they have a multitude of features or built-in apps that deepen their core solution’s value.
For example, Plume WorkPass is a small-business connectivity solution that offers seamless WiFi connection, but that is far from the whole story. In addition to adaptive WiFi for workspaces and open-to-the-public business locations, the solution is also an enterprise security platform, a workforce management suite, and a marketing assistant that delivers insights and analytics about WiFi-using guests.
Some really good business tech solutions really do only fill one need. But if you have the option, you should look to solutions that do more.
1.Scalability Is More Important Than Ever
Where do you want your business to be in five years?
It’s a simple enough question. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, it has a simple enough answer too. Chances are, you want your business to be bigger. Better-known. More profitable.
Now, a more challenging question: What are you doing to make that happen?
Your growth plan surely includes obvious investments in human capital, new markets, and business infrastructure. But what about the less visible things that can be just as important for growth?
The right tech solutions can make all the difference. If you’re focused on growing into the future, you need scalable solutions that grow right along with you — because it’s expensive to switch.
For example, virtually every business that’s more than one person in front of a laptop (and even then) needs project management software. Even if your current organization system works just fine for your needs as a sole proprietor, you’ll soon enough need a scalable solution that keeps you and your employees and contractors (some of whom might not be in the same city or even the same time zone) on the same page.
Platforms like Zoho Projects, a top project management solution for small and midsize enterprises, serve pint-sized businesses and larger, still-growing firms equally well. It’s a superior alternative to barer-bones project management options that keep their sticker prices low by sacrificing growth potential.
You get what you pay for. And when the alternative is a platform that maxes out before you’re ready to call it quits on the growth front, that’s no alternative at all.
2.Anticipate the “Next Need”
Even as you work to plug the tech holes that you’ve put off addressing, think about the “next need” for your business.
Some of these needs will be specific to your industry or product line. Others are basically universal. For example, sole proprietors and micro-businesses with just a few employees in a single office location can get by without a dedicated workplace chat solution — they use email and their email suite’s built-in chat if it has one.
They’ll soon need something more sophisticated though. So why not invest now, before it’s an urgent need, and especially if there’s a low-cost or freemium solution available for smaller users? Well-known workplace chat suites like Slack are reasonably priced, cushioning the blow of signing up before they’re absolutely necessary. They also offer an impressive array of advanced features for larger or more sophisticated users, like cross-workspace collaboration — a near-certain “next need” for companies with growing client lists or an expanding pool of remote contractors.
3.Single Sign-on Access Is Great, If It’s Really Secure
Single sign-on tech solutions make life a lot easier for businesses and their employees. They reduce the incidence and impact of forgotten passwords and make it less likely that employees will resort to insecure password storage methods, among other benefits.
That is if they’re really secure. It’s important to distinguish between business tech suites with enterprise-grade security and a proven track record of thwarting attacks, like the Atlassian family of tools, and…others. (Not naming names, here.) Do your research and pull the trigger only if you’re sure you’re making a sound investment.
4.Take Care of the Basics (Whether You Think About Them Or Not)
You probably don’t think much about your email suite, your calendar app, your word processing program, or any of the dozens of other apps that either come pre-installed on your hard drive or exist free in the cloud.
You should take stock of these apps and their capabilities though. And you should make sure you’re not missing any important ones. For example, the Microsoft Outlook calendar is much more versatile than casual users realize. And the Outlook suite (and its competitors) has lots of underutilized tools that really can make business users’ lives easier.
5.Set Your Business Up for Tech Success
Every successful business uses the sorts of basic techniques described above. Many businesses go much further and invest in specialized solutions for more specific needs.
Whatever your company’s technological needs, it should be clear that you deserve — and need — the very best. Setting yourself up for tech success means carefully evaluating what your organization needs now, what it’s likely to need in the future, and what it can do without today and tomorrow.
It also means choosing the right product to address each issue that demands a technological solution. These five guidelines should help you through all of the above. Ultimately, however, it falls to you to make the leap from thinking about investing in business tech to actually making that investment. Chances are, your competitors already have.
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