Ten years later, everywhere you look, technology is being deployed at both the personal and business level, and in ways previously unimaginable.
“The productivity impact of technology on businesses has been remarkable,” says Kevin Teeters, vice president of marketing at Mpower Communications. “Small businesses are no longer ‘local-only’ enterprises, and can choose to market their products and services globally via e-commerce Web sites.”
Smart Business spoke with Teeters about how companies can maximize their technology investments and fully utilize their capabilities.
How has technology changed the way we do business?
The Internet alone has created a broader universe of opportunity while reducing selling and back-office support expenses. Small businesses can collect and leverage information about customers, competitors and markets previously unavailable or available with high cost. They can then use this information to tweak their operations and better serve their customers, and wind up increasing profitability and building strong reputations in the process.
What challenges do companies face in trying to maximize their technology?
Technology can lead to information overload. With so much information at our fingertips, we’re overwhelmed when it comes to effectively managing and translating knowledge into productivity. Businesses pay a high price when they cannot manage their information. Estimates are that information workers spend as much as 30 percent of their time searching for information necessary to conduct business, at a cost of $18,000 each year per employee in lost productivity. A study from the University of California, Berkeley predicts that the volume of digital data we store will nearly double in the next two years.
How can companies work around these technology issues?
For a company to best manage its information and make smart business decisions, it has to first understand the implications of competing in a global market. Small and mid-sized firms need to adapt and leverage a new generation of communication tools that allow them to communicate with their customers, partners and analyze data quickly; and to use that information to drive intelligent decision-making. Concurrently, they must also share the knowledge that results across the enterprise and beyond.
What benefits can a company expect in return for these efforts?
Businesses must ask themselves: Relative to the highest performer in your industry, from a scale 1 (worse) to 5 (best), how has your business performed over the last three years in the following categories: financial, customer satisfaction, business process and innovation? Any business investment should have a scorecard view of how any change to how they are currently conducting business will affect their performance.
What tools are available to help companies do this?
Managed intranet/extranet services are now available that securely connect remote workers, partners, and customers to their pre-defined security level for files, applications and network resources via any Web browser. Secure intranet services are not new. However, what was previously available to the large enterprise, small to mid-sized businesses can take advantage of managed secure remote Web portals that provide centralized access to internal resources services, removing the need for IT management and hardware investment to do so in-house.
In addition, online Web meeting applications allow for simple, cost-effective, distributed meetings and provide rich tools that enable team members to work together.
What’s ahead for businesses looking to leverage technology in the next 10 years?
Businesses need to be able to manage the information they collect and translate this information into competitive advantages within their industry. The managed service provider will look to provide relevant Enterprise solutions for the small to mid-size business market. Smart workflow tools that help reduce friction points which hamper organizational agility. These tools will automate the movement of approvals, alerts and exceptions. They will also have the intelligence to recognize inefficiencies in existing processes and make improvements.
To enable these new tools, networks will be faster, computer processing will continue to increase, and data storage costs will continue to fall. Mobile devices will rival today’s desktop PCs for power and storage. Most important, managed service providers will provide application tools that tie it all together in ways which will be streamlined and intuitive in the way businesses use it.
KEVIN TEETERS is vice president of marketing at Mpower Communications. Reach him at (714) 453-6705 or email@example.com.