Having a system in place to help you manage technology is critical for you to be able to grow your business in an effective and efficient manner.
Technology in today’s business environment is as important as ever. Technology provides so many benefits and advantages in today’s world that it is becoming more and more difficult to be competitive without it. Software is used to help manage schedules and appointments. Tech is used to build and deliver digital products. The manufacturing of physical products on even a small scale requires technology throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.
I worked in the IT department for a Fortune 100 bank several years ago and we used to joke that the bank was really an IT company that used a bank for a front. As technology has become more accessible, even the smallest of businesses stand to gain significant benefits from learning how to implement and manage technology today.
Benefits of Tech
Technology will allow you as a small business or entrepreneur to do many things you couldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise do.
Technology allows your business to do things you couldn’t otherwise do. Think about some common business processes and how technology plays a role.
Many in business today are familiar with the concept of a funnel. You run some ads, send people to a landing page, capture email addresses and then market further to those email addresses. Imagine trying to do any of these steps without the technology that’s used to facilitate the process!
Without things like Facebook, Google, and YouTube, how would you run ads? Television? (does anybody even watch ads on television anymore?) Radio? Maybe you could go door to door and sell your products.
What about the landing page… if this wasn’t enabled by technology, what would you point your ad to?
The reality is, your business wouldn’t do many things, including running sales funnels, without tech.
Technology also allows your business to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do.
Take an email sequence for example. Technology allows you to configure a series of emails to automatically be sent at specific time intervals based off a trigger. This trigger could be anything that happens in your business.
If you have someone sign up to your newsletter through a landing page, you could automatically send that person several emails on a schedule. Imagine trying to do this without tech. You’d have to track every person that signed up and then manually copy/paste emails at every interval in the sequence. What if 100 people signed up? What about 1000? You’d be spending most of your waking hours just making sure you sent emails at the right times to the right people.
It’s only by using technology in your business that you’re able to do these things you couldn’t or wouldn’t do otherwise.
Downsides of Tech in your Business
With all the wonderful things tech can do for your business, there are some downsides to technology you want to watch out for.
First, there is a high propensity to get caught by “shiny object syndrome” when it comes to technology. There is always something new coming out and there is no shortage of distractions when it comes to thinking about, analyzing, and implementing new tech.
This also makes it harder to commit to a specific piece of tech for your business. Like a bad case of FOMO, it’s not uncommon to wait on making a decision just in case something better comes out in a month or two.
The sheer volume of options can be overwhelming as well. If you look for small business CRMs, you’ll find 100s of options available. How does one even begin to digest all of these options and pick the right one?
Many hours could be wasted just trying to decide on which technology you should have in your business.
Speaking of time wasted, technology introduces new and plentiful ways for you to waste time on your business.
This is a common area of wasted energy – you spend hours and hours tinkering with tech that really doesn’t help you get better outcomes. You are busy and “feel” productive because you’re spending so many hours working, but you’re not actually doing things that will help you improve your business.
It’s easy to lose focus on why you wanted the tech in the first place, and the tech itself becomes its own “purpose” which leads you to waste more resources.
Take a website for example. Many businesses reach a point where they determine a website is a needed asset. There’s usually a reason or two that this point is reached. You might, for example, have a large document library you want to expose to Customers.
As you start to build out your document library, the website takes on a mind of its own, and your purpose shifts to building the best website out there. You add features and functionality around forums, social media integrations, e-com, and other website fanciness when really you just needed the document library.
This is just one example, but anytime you are adding tech to your business, you risk shifting from your original purpose of reaching a specific business outcome to putting in the best tech possible which is usually a waste of time and money.
Systems to Manage Tech – How to Think
Developing a good system for managing technology in your business starts with improving how you think about tech implementations and management.
Understand that in most cases, the perfect technology doesn’t exist for your use case. There will always be something missing, something that could be done a little better, or something you wish was done differently. Your goal in finding and using technology in your business should be to find what’s “good enough” for you to get real benefits.
While there is some urgency to make a decision and get to work, you also want to think through the long term (at least a little bit). What are your future plans and what tech might you need to facilitate those plans? Decisions you make today around tech can impact you down the road, making your life much easier or much harder. For example, if you’re adding a CRM and choose Hubspot because today it’s free, but you know that within the next six months, you’re going to need features that are part of a higher end Hubspot plan you won’t be able to afford, you might want to not pick Hubspot today to avoid having to switch CRMs in six months.
Additionally, the more you can keep technology in the same family, the better off you’ll be as the needs of your business continue to evolve over time. Personally, I use Zoho One for this reason. Zoho has tools for accounting, email automation, CRM, and much more. This allows me to easily integrate data from one application to the next, making many things easier to see and do. If it was separate companies providing all these tools, then I would need even more tech (like Zapier) to connect things together, increasing my costs and the complexity of my business unnecessarily.
You don’t need a complicated system to manage technology in your business. What you need will be slightly different than the rest. What’s important is that your system works for you. A few key things you’ll want to make sure your technology management system does:
- Keeps track of the research you do
- Ensures you are focused on the desired outcomes of your technology efforts
- Keeps track of what you have in place and how it works
For me, I use a combination of OneNote and PowerPoint. OneNote has all my written notes in it while I use PowerPoint to do flow diagrams and other drawings. I have a questionnaire that I use to help me think through new technology and define the guardrails that help me keep focused on the right outcomes.
The last thing you should be thinking about regularly is the purpose of the technology you have in your business. Managing implementations means constantly checking yourself on what you’re adding to make sure it aligns with your general business strategy and desired outcomes from the technology. Managing technology over time means regularly revisiting what you have and why you have it.
Systems to Manage Tech – What to Do
Before starting any new technology project, first get really clear on what this technology is going to do for your business. Why do you need it? What will it do? What will it NOT do?
Once you’re clear on what it is you need, look at your existing tech first and see if there are options that might suit your needs with services/products you already use. For example, Active Campaign is a great tool for email automation. You might be using this already in your business and decide you want to add CRM functionality as well. Active Campaign has a CRM product that provides decent functionality that’s fully integrated with its email automation tools which will save you time and money over picking a CRM application from a different company.
If you decide to venture out and evaluate other tech, limit yourself to 3-4 initial options. Spend 30-60 minutes researching all your options, but then draw that down to a few that you plan on getting more familiar with. You can always expand the search later with more options if none of the first few don’t work.
Pick a tool for managing your research. You’ll learn lots when you do your research and will eventually make some decisions around what works and what doesn’t. You’ll want to retain this information for later use should you need to revisit the tech at a future time.
Pick a tool for ongoing management. You’ll want to be able to document how tech in your business is working, especially if you are managing the tech yourself. Oftentimes, you’ll set something up and then won’t touch it again for six months. You’ll find yourself coming back either because something quit working or because you want to make updates/changes, but you’ll have forgotten what you set up and how it all works. This will lead to wasted time having to remember or relearn what it all does.
Here is some additional reading on technology in small business –
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