Information technology is important. It is apparent that technology does not have to be complex or costly to be effective. Technology is probably the most important enabler for change and tracking results that a company can introduce.
This is a very big topic so I am going to ask you a few questions.
Does your company have a plan on how to use technology to grow sales?
Does you company have a plan on how to use technology as a competitive weapon?
If not you are missing some great opportunities.
Information technology should be an asset to a business and support the business through a clear definition of the role technology will play in the business. This is done in the business plan.
Implementing a full technology strategy can have a benefit that cascades throughout the organization.
Let’s talk a minute and discuss how to create and implement an information technology strategy. The approach to information technology must first be addressed as part of the business plan. It must ask and address the role technology will play in the business. From an information technology perspective there are only three kinds of projects:
For our discussion we will focus on the third type of projects: projects that give you a strategic or competitive advantage.
But first let me define strategic and competitive advantage. A strategic advantage can be thought of as redefining or changing how the game is played. For example, Amazon changed the rules for bookstores. Books could now be purchased on-line and shipped to your door very quickly and inexpensively. Amazon further redefined the rules by implementing One Click. One Click is the way Amazon allows any product to be purchased with just the click of one button.
A competitive advantage raises the bar in a specific market or industry. For example, if a manufacturer creates an innovation that allows a product to be produced 20% less than the industry average, the rules haven’t changed but the bar has been raised to a whole new level. Another definition of a competitive advantage could be higher quality, lower cost, speed to market, or improved customer service.
What kinds of problems are suitable and can be addressed by the effective use of information technology? This is a broad question and information technology (IT) can be used in many markets, on many kinds of applications and on many different kinds of problems. The challenges generally fall into the following categories:
IT does not typically generate value directly, unless you are a technology driven company committed to using technology to change the rules. IT adds values by enabling the productive and effective use of existing business processes.
If you have an immediate opportunity and want a way to appraise the opportunity within the organization, the first step in the process is to identify the opportunities and/or threats being felt. Once the opportunities/threats are identified take the following action: Prioritize the opportunities/threats based on impact to the business plan, if a plan exists, otherwise assess the impact to the business overall.
Take some time to see if there are any opportunities in your organization where IT can be used to reduce cost or improve productivity. Do your homework and find the right partners and trust their judgment.
We can apply technology in a more mundane environment that provides the same kind of competitive environment for small business. Many small businesses do not have a system that tracks leads and automates the communication between the company and its many customers, clients, and contact. We think of this tracking as part of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application. There are many variants of CRM or marketed as CRM: Constant Contact, High Rise, and Zoho to name a few. I use AddressTwo (http://addresstwo.com) it comes with a 14 day free trial. AddressTwo is easy to use and fully integrates contacts, calendar, email marketing, task management and follow up with post card marketing to simplify my life. I consider this application to be a competitive advantage for me in my business.
Ask yourself what technologies can you use in your business to increase your productivity (when you use it) and reduce your cost. Ask yourself how this technology will grow sales, increase revenues and shorten the sales process. The key to a good technology purchase is knowing what you want to accomplish (we are back to the business plan) and how technology will help us achieve our goal. Ask yourself how technology will help you:
When you evaluate your technologies purchases against those three criteria it is hard to make a bad technology investment.
Today as business owners we have to constantly evaluate our processes and identify the best practice to stay ahead of not only our competition but the current trends in your marketplace.
Technology allows us to do this and use it as a tremendous tool to make the best and most practical use of our time. As the old saying goes ,time is money.
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