What do you do when something isn’t working properly or efficiently in your business? You make a change. So how can new technology improve small business operations? Whenever you attempt to change processes in a business, there is a chance that staff will resist those changes, especially when it comes to technology. If you are a field service business using paper systems for quoting, recording job details and invoicing, you are probably looking at technology as a way to not only streamline these processes and remove double data entry, but also as a growth strategy. In addition, new technology provides a boost in efficiency, profitability and productivity among employees.
The use of technology to further expand and achieve business growth is more and more common. Reports show 64% of small to medium businesses use cloud-based technology.
The Benefits of Implementing New Technology in Small Business
If your business is making the transition to tech-based operations for the first time, or even simply switching from one software platform to another, there are a heap of benefits to be aware of. Just using technology in your small business can give you a competitive edge, allowing you to process invoices and get work in and out the door faster.
Are you using spreadsheets and paper work orders? Implementing field service management software streamlines business operations into one central hub. Send work orders to employees while they’re out in the field so that they can update job progress instantly straight back to the office. This drastically cuts down time spent on administrative tasks, giving you the opportunity to focus on other key areas of the business. Other benefits of using new technology to improve small business include easier collaboration among individual departments, an improved customer experience and a much further reach with your customer base.
Which Types of Technology Are Best For Small Businesses
In addition to field service management software there are other technologies to think about for your small business. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool provides one area where you can monitor, track and manage the customer relationship. It provides specific details about who is reading your marketing emails or wandering through your website. Email marketing is another important engagement tool so adopting technology that can schedule or auto-generate emails can be life-changing. It’s important to keep your customers and prospects in the know with any special offers or promotions you're running, as you never know who’s on the other end of that email.
Your accounts team benefits from adopting online accounting software, such as QuickBooks. A good accounting software provides tools for tracking income and expenses, expense claims and invoicing. A lot of accounting software easily integrates with other apps and softwares, bringing that streamlined process full circle.
This is by no means a complete list of the modern technology available to a small business owner. There are hundreds upon thousands of different options for bringing technology into your business. This piece may get you one step closer to answering the question; how can new technology improve my small business?
Navigating The Risks Of Implementing New Technology in A Small Business
The thought of using technology in the workplace can be daunting for some. And, like a lot of things in life, implementation of software isn’t completely risk free. There are a few potential challenges to take into consideration, including:
- Security risks - with so much data stored in one place, it would be foolish to believe that its security is completely iron clad in safety. Outsiders who look to take advantage of others’ personal data, also known as hackers, have an array of data to play with. Storing large quantities of data brings with it a security risk and you’ve got to ensure you keep business and customer data locked tight.
- Financial implications - technology is great. But it does come with financial costs to maintain. If you have a workforce with company laptops and phones then keeping up with the latest technology will certainly keep your pockets shallow. If you’re looking to adapt one of your workflows with the use of an add-on from existing technology, that’s likely to cost as well. More often than not there will be software updates regularly to stabilize performance and introduce new features. Depending on the size of the update it can involve additional training for staff, IT updates and re-visiting current security protocols.
- Staff adapting to change - learning new systems and processes will feel daunting for your staff however, technology can’t be brought into a business without additional training. There may be staff who are resistant to change. It’s usually rooted in comfortability for existing methods, but that’s something that can be worked on.
How to Mitigate Risks and Ensure A Successful Implementation
When new technology and small business collide, you want it to be smooth sailing from the planning stage right through to implementation. Mitigating risks and ensuring the implementation is a success will be top of your agenda, so here are a few rules you can follow to help achieve this:
- Make time. Take the time to schedule training sessions at a time that suits all staff. It’s important everyone feels supported, and that often means having multiple sessions to account for different departments and their workloads.
- Be clear. Make sure all teams and relevant staff know when training for the new technology will happen and it’s outlined in writing. It’s important that there are no misunderstandings between you and staff, and will ensure everyone knows what is expected of them.
- Set expectations. Staff should know how long the training will take and what is expected of them during the implementation.
- Let staff know the benefits. Be sure to shout about how much easier it will be for staff to go about their work day. Explain the benefits the use of technology can bring and how it will help.
- Be open to talk. Staff may want to air their concerns during the implementation process, and that’s okay. Be open to having those discussions with staff to put their minds at ease and let them know they’re heard.
4 Effective Tips to Help Your Staff Adopt New Technology
Technology is a tool that will not only help you increase efficiency and profitability, but will also make life easier for everyone. Follow these four quick tips to help your business succeed during, and after the implementation process.
1. Provide adequate training
Some of your staff might be able to get up and running on new technology right away while others may struggle to adjust. Be sure that you are either sharing helpful training resources or working with a technology provider that will supply custom training options for your unique business needs. Also, keep in mind that different people have different learning styles and different levels of capacity for taking in new information.
2. Allow two-way communication
When communicating about transitioning to new technology, openly share the reason for the change so your staff can understand the motivation and how they will benefit. You also want to be open to staff feedback. If certain people aren’t adopting the changes, seem confused or aren’t engaging at all, ask why. When you show that you are open to listening, your staff will feel respected and be less resistant to upcoming changes.
3.Change at a reasonable pace
While you or other stakeholders might be eager to make the switch over to new technology, it is important to remember that change takes time. It is better to give your staff the time and space to learn new processes properly rather than to rush through implementation only to create confusion later down the line.
When you are making a major change, sometimes staff are asked to give up additional time, adjust their schedules, or take on additional responsibilities. Learning to work with new technology can be a challenge in itself, so show your gratitude through words of praise, incentives and publicly acknowledging those who put in the time and effort to learn.
There are always risks when implementing new technology in a small business, but the rewards are so much greater. Streamlined workflows, customized reporting and increased visibility around business processes are just a few. Learning how to adapt to new technology and implement it into your business will open up new doors and opportunities for you and your staff.