Technology is an unavoidable cost of doing business in the twenty-first century. Unless you have the proper technological resources, your company will quickly find itself lagging behind the competition.
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But small business technology can also be expensive. To keep costs in check and meet your small business technology needs, you'll need to develop a small business technology plan.
Like a business plan, a technology plan lays out a documented strategy for your company. Every step of the way, the technology decisions you make will have significant financial and compatibility consequences farther down the road. By planning ahead you can save time and money by eliminating redundancies and maximizing your expansion capabilities.
Your company's technology plan will be unique to the needs of your industry and business. However, it should minimally take into account the following considerations.
Present and Future Use
One of the first issues to consider is how your business currently uses technology as well as how you may use it in the future. There are any number of uses for technology in small business including recordkeeping, inventory control, database management, presentation design, desktop publishing, production management, and web-based activities. That's not to mention the specialized technology applications that may be used in product manufacturing or service delivery.
The best gauge for determining how you might use technology in the future is your business plan. Your business plan provides a roadmap for the future of your company – a roadmap that can and should be synchronized with a well-thought out technology plan.
Identifying Appropriate Technology
Once you have determined how you will use technology, your next step is to choose equipment and software that will meet your needs. Function, compatibility, cost, ease of use, and expansion capability are all important issues that you'll need to consider.
Even so, the most important thing is to find technological solutions that can be easily integrated with each other, both now and in the future. You need to have a reasonable expectation that the technology you purchase will not be rendered obsolete because it functions in a platform that is incompatible with other mainstream technology. Unless your business requires highly customized technology solutions, it's best to stick with well-known hardware and software brands rather than take a risk on a cheaper, more obscure manufacturer.
Allow for Advances in Technology
Like a business plan, a technology plan is semi-fluid document. In other words, your plan can't be so rigid that it doesn't allow for the possibility of modification and adaptation for technological advances.
This may seem obvious, but the consequences of an overly rigid technology plan aren't always apparent. For example, suppose your company needs to purchase of an expensive piece of technology to manufacture your products. Since cash is tight and the cost of the technology is enormous, you create a technology plan that ties you to that piece of technology for ten years because it allows you to spread payment for the equipment over a longer term. However, in five years the technology completely changes. The competition is on board with the new technology while you're stuck with the old technology for another five years, placing your business at competitive disadvantage.
With a little built-in flexibility, you can avoid similar nightmare scenarios and keep your company on track with technology and the marketplace.