You rarely find someone who doesn’t love tech these days. It ain’t the late 90’s where vaporware mattered and earnings did not, but we still all see how crucial technology is when it comes to running a business, regardless of its size.

We find ourselves in an interesting time where we still all remember how the bottom dropped out of the market within the tech industry and now after reeling from yet another stock market crash, we are starting to get back to trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Where we should invest our money (and resources) in order to capitalize on those tasks where technology truly can help your company take advantage of its own “killer apps”. I’m not talking about the iPad here and Angry Birds. I’m referring to simple technologies that can go a long way to bettering your business, making it more efficient, expanding its marketing and sales operations, and all without the heavy cost we’ve come to expect in order to gain a substantial ROI from your investment in technology.

As a whole, we often we feel as though technology is definitely better (or getting better) than 10 years ago, but still see ourselves in a “get what you pay for” situation. Some companies are frugal to the point of not wanting to invest in technology solutions that may not work or require too much change to the operational processes, while larger companies often deal with massive capital investments that often end up shelved a few years later. There’s a combination of fear and mistrust when it comes to which technologies should be considered versus those that are better left in “wait and see” status. Marketing plays a major role in how and why decisions are made – as terms such as Cloud Computing and SaaS almost penetrate our business pyche and spur the paranoia that the industry loves to bring about – hoping to convert that paranoia to dollars.

Ironically, technology is often overlooked by businesses of all sizes due to a misconception of not only cost, but also of which types of solutions and technologies will work best for your company. Decisions are typically made based on WHO is presenting the solutions versus WHAT are the best solutions and options for your company. Start  by focusing on what makes sense, and look at the numbers based on how your operation’s functions, then extend coverage with that same common-sense approach.

For example, I’m always amazed at how few companies utilize inexpensive, high-speed scanners to take the place of filing cabinets, allowing companies to not only save on workflow efficiency, but also the cost of space. Digitizing documents doesn’t need to be a major expense and all depends on the type of solution that works best for your company. It can also be done in stages. But one thing is for sure, it’s one of those “core” technologies to consider. It ain’t sexy, but it works. Will it save money? If done in an optimal way, yes. Could it save your business? Possibly. Remember, all those documents are at risk to fire, water, theft, vandalism, etc. – and it’s the classic case where people don’t realize how important the data (in this case paper data) is until it’s gone and no longer accessible. Is this a new technology?  Not even close.  Is it critical to protecting and/or running your business, yes.

Data backup is another low-flying technology that often goes overlooked by businesses, but again is critical  to protecting your business. Check out some not-so-fun stats:

• 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year. 70% fail within five years.

• 34% of companies fail to test their tape backup methods, and of those that do, 77% have found tape back-up failures.

• 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately.
(National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)

This is no joke and again, so far from being a sexy, sleek technology solution that people barely consider it a true “technology” at this point. But, it’s major – yet will continue to be overlooked by companies for years to come.

Other major topics you’re dealing with are considerations such as CRM solutions, workflow systems, origination and other business process and portfolio management applications. These clearly are not simple decisions, but start by planning and specifying your business needs and feeding off the expertise of not only your staff, but also consultants you can rely on to be involved in decisions that work best for your company and your budget.

It is not necessarily how much things cost, but how to generate a true ROI on your technology investment, and how to protect your core business operations. Spending millions on a solution doesn’t guarantee it will work any more so than spending thousands. Often  larger scale solutions fail more significantly because of the sheer size and scope of the projects – and the massive set of moving parts needing to work in unison to actually provide a benefit for the operation.  Small to medium-sized companies likewise struggle to integrate seemingly simple “off-the-shelf” CRM applications that cost hundreds (or less) per month such as SalesForce.com into their businesses operations – it’s the classic “it must be good” approach – until it comes down to being utilized effectively by your employees.

It all drills down to technology being seen and utilized as a tool, not as a solution. Technology is  not a solution until it works for your company. Before one line of code is written or a single new device brought online, prepare, plan and specify from start to finish and take control over the technology solutions that will make your company better. Make it work by driving the solutions that drive your operation, not the other way around.

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