A Very Brief Recent History of Business Technology Applications

In the late 1990’s technology soared. It was the era of the dot.com boom and subsequent bust. Many new software and hardware advances were adopted by large companies that began to integrate new technologies into their business processes.

Some of these technologies were on the ‘bleeding edge’ with buggy software, crashes, insufficient memory and so on. Online ‘cloud’ or web based applications were often not reliable and not user friendly.

For smaller companies without IT departments, being on the technology bleeding edge was the equivalent to living a nightmare.

Around 2003 the applications became more robust and bugs and crashes were less of a problem. Part of this progress was due to the dramatic drop in pricing for computer memory meaning that more robust programs could be run without crashing.

Also around this time many industries developed industry specific software to run businesses like car dealerships or bookstores. Called “management systems” this genre of software allowed smaller companies to combine all their processes under one program. This management software also did not require an onsite IT department to keep it running.

This vertical industry specific software was complemented by horizontal industry software such as bookkeeping and contact management software. This meant that a company could also run its books and keep track of prospects and customers in ways they were not able to do before.

Software and platform integrators stayed busy. The big drive during this period was to try to link and integrate software. For instance, management software would generate an invoice, note that it was paid and then route the data to the proper category in the general ledger through a linked accounting system.

It was clearly understood that the more integrated and “seamless” a software was, the more powerful and cost effective it could be. And since human error continued to be a major drawback to software applications, greater integration meant not only saving time and money but reducing errors.

As hardware and software improved it also became cheaper and more affordable to smaller companies. By 2005 and 2006 many of these applications became more mainstream and were used by smaller and smaller companies.

Perhaps the biggest advances during this time were web based applications. Companies could link all parts of their business online from sales and inventory to employee communications and human resources.

This shift also reduced costs from thousands of dollars for a software purchase to a monthly user’s fee making it much more affordable. These applications also eliminated a lot of paper.

By 2007 the second wave of technology upheaval had begun as smaller and smaller companies began using technology to manage and market.

Smaller companies began to sell more online and funnel new prospects to their sales department. These new technologies allowed companies to sell more by expanding their markets.

“In today’s marketplace if a retail or service business does not exploit all their potential markets then their competitors will,” says Eric Ressler of Zuniweb Creative Services, “it’s just not optional anymore.”

Across horizontal and vertical industries the key driver is strategy. Those companies with a solid strategy that is well executed are stronger competitors.

Technology is a critical component in almost all business strategies and in recent years technology has enabled businesses of all types to leverage their strengths in their respective markets.

As technology has become more user friendly it also has more users. Today one does not have to know html or coding to operate very sophisticated software and companies do not require a high level of technical expertise to run most software.

The big advantage is that the user can focus on business functions and not on user unfriendly software.

With these innovations has come a second wave revolution that is changing the way business operates today. As always, the issue is which companies take advantage of these opportunities and which do not.

As always the marketplace will ultimately decide which of these companies succeed.

Small Business Owners: Utilizing Technology to Improve Profits

If you really want to become more profitable and improve operations in your company, you have to shift your focus from the following limiting thoughts about technology.

  1. If I buy the latest production software we will be in good shape
  2. We don’t do that here
  3. We are unique, we don’t have competition that use technology to help them generate profits
  4. The plan is in my head, people will steal it off the computer
  5. All I need is more sales to make more profits

You’ve got to get the right mindset by eliminating restricting thoughts, and then you’ll be ready to improve people, processes and profitability.

Do you ever wonder how a company can start out with just one idea, a passion and a vision, then 10 to 20 years later have thousands of employees and millions in sales?

  1. What did these companies do to become so successful
  2. Are the owners smarter than you?
  3. Do they work harder than you?
  4. Did they have better equipment or people than you?

No. But they do use better technology tools to drive operation (the people and the process). Operations represent about 60% or 80% of all your overhead costs but they’re the least understood by US businesses.

For decades, the Japanese have focused on operations that have driven innovation and a culture of continuous improvement. In the right small business owner hands, operations and technology can be a competitive weapon.

Now, ask yourself how can your small company— with just a handful of employees and limited resources — turn operations and technology applications into a powerful weapon to beat competition and learn to grow and thrive!

Why invest in technology / What are the benefits

The bottom line is, if you’re suffering from tight cash flow, exhausted lines of credit and top-line growth, then you have weak operations and have underutilized the technology applications onsite or off-the-shelf that can help you.

First step to rapid profit improvement is to start by questioning your employees. They usually know where costly blocks and bottlenecks are hidden.

Technology can store employee survey results that help you to plan profitability.

Employee Questionnaire(sample)

  1. Are your interests and ambitions being challenged
  2. Does each department in this company have measurable standard designed to increase profitability? Does each area have documentation of process flows and procedures of how it should work?
  3. Does everyone in this company share the goal of improving the company profits? Does the CEO hold town hall meetings about ‘planned profits’?
  4. Are you regularly told when you do good work?
  5. Do you get the help you need to do a good job?
  6. As an employee, do you feel you can trust your direct supervisor/manager?
  7. Are owner/managers open and honest with employees?
  8. Does the company provide you with continual training in areas that will make you a better employee? Has it trained you on how to cut operating expenses or increase revenue to improve profits in your area?
  9. Are your responsibilities generally explained, well planned and organized?
  10. Is poor performance tolerated by management? i.e., worker performance, operations bottlenecks and customer relations.

The following are other ways business productivity software drives business processes more efficiently to gain optimal results:

Create an open and communicative environment.

By storing appraisal information within a formal database, managers can more easily communicate business strategy and create measurable goals for their employees that will support overall company objectives. In allowing employees to see the whole picture and understand better how individual goals fit into the company’s business objectives. This can create a energized and engaged employees, thereby raising the business productivity of the company.

Motivate your employees using technology.

Based upon the information gathered in an online performance evaluation, managers can compare current skills with those required for advancement or other recognition or reward opportunities that present themselves as the manager tracks progress on employee goals throughout the year. You may also find you need to redirect employees to different departments if you feel their business productivity could increase elsewhere. If there are impediments to better performance, the company should review why it is happening and try to eliminate these through better allocation of resources or additional training.

Monitor business productivity and employee progress on goals.

Business productivity software solutions enable managers to more easily track progress during every phase of goal completion and offer immediate reinforcement or coaching to keep performance and deadlines on track in daily operations, and utilize performance measurements for strategic planning.

Electronic Commerce

There are many business applications related to e-commerce, from setting up your online storefront to managing your supply chain to marketing your products and services. These technologies fall into three main categories:

Business to Business(B2B)

  • Purchasing indirect supplies
  • Look for catalogue-based websites offered by suppliers for corporate purchases, similar to business-to-customer websites, for purchasing indirect supplies such as office furniture, pens, paper, and general office equipment.
  • Leveraging your existing Web presence
  • Improve your existing business-to-customer e-commerce website. Greater sophistication can be added into your online store to target your business clientele.

Business to Customer(B2C)

The global reach of the Internet has allowed many businesses to sell their products and services online, both at home and abroad. An electronic storefront is a website with many pre-built e-commerce components like electronic shopping carts and secure payment gateways that you can use to set up an online store.

Internet Marketing

Everything you do to promote your business online is Internet marketing. For example, Internet marketing strategies include (but are not limited to) website design and content, search engine optimization, directory submissions, reciprocal linking strategies, online advertising, and email marketing.

How to Implement Technology to increase profits

IT implementation can be a valuable tool for increasing workplace productivity, but without a careful selection of the right technologies for your specific industry and comprehensive employee training, it can also serve to reduce productivity, profitability and employee satisfaction. The return on investment will depend on whether the technologies implemented are right for a given business’ needs and how prepared employees are to use them.

Step 1

Brainstorm a list of business process improvements you may be able to realize from a technological implementation. Your list should include three categories: improvements that you know to be possible, and which are core requirements for your expense; a wish list of things you would like to have, but which may be future development efforts; and a list of things which would transform the way you do business, but which may not be possible. These three targets provide you with a present-day implementation goal, as well as a future development target–and it may be that your transformational goals could be far easier to reach than you expect.

Step 2

Determine whether you intend to develop these technologies using in-house resources, or through outside consultancies. Nearly every major workflow technology requires extensive customization, implementation procedures and training. Small businesses can sometimes get by cheaply using staff members technologically proficient–but mistakes made at the beginning of the process can ramp up costs later on when you turn to professional outside support.

Step 3

Avoid specifying particular technologies if you do not have the technical expertise to evaluate them properly. The purpose of the managerial process at this stage is to define goals and budgetary constraints; non-technical managers who wed themselves to specific technologies too early can miss out on substantial cost savings, and choose a technology not the best suited for the work.

Step 4

Circulate your request for proposals among outside consultants and implementors, or establish an internal process for doing the same among your staff if you are keeping the work in-house. Major technological implementations will not succeed if they are added to the existing workload of an employee. Proper technological implementations can be more than a full-time job in and of themselves. Staff members shifted to technology implementation should have their existing duties moved to other staff resources.

Step 5

Negotiate a time frame, budget and implementation benchmarks with your external or internal staff resources. If you are working with an outside consultant, your contract should include protections against running over budget and over schedule. Likewise, the consultant will protect his own firm by setting specific terms of the work to be completed, and charging you extra if you change them over the course of the contract.

Step 6

Develop an implementation timetable, including the following steps: test deployment to review the work; training, if necessary; a transition phase from the current workflow to the new technology; and production deployment of the completed technology. This last phase is typically followed by an iterative process, in which improvements to the technology are collected from the staff who have direct experience working with it. When budget and time allow for it, apply a new cycle of upgrades to your technology to ensure that you are getting the most out of it.

The Importance of Information Technology Training from a Management Perspective

Information technology training for IT managers and systems analysts may seem superfluous – these folks are usually well-learned in their areas of expertise. But, do they understand how a company’s technology fits into the bigger picture from a business perspective? That’s where management training becomes important. Every manager who plays a role in researching, selecting or implementing enterprise technology needs to have a firm grasp on the basics of emerging technologies, as well as how they serve a larger business purpose, to ensure that technology is being used to the company’s best strategic advantage.

Stay Current on Revolutionary, Emerging Technology Applications

A program of continual information technology training is crucial to the success of any IT team. Technology is constantly evolving, and it seems that there is a new application released every day that is meant to simplify doing business. This can be overwhelming if you do not stay current on the high-level trends of technology and their corresponding impact on business. With the Web 2.0 revolution in full swing, management training is a useful tool for managers to become familiar with the online trends such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and RSS feeds, as well as how the trends are going to change the ways we view the Internet and communicate with each other. It is estimated that these technologies will have significant business impact in the coming years, and companies everywhere have to consider directly how it affects their business strategies.

Information technology training can help managers determine the impact of new technologies and how to adapt their business processes. Trying to envision how Web 2.0 changes traditional business models is difficult when you have no knowledge of how these new technical applications are being used from a business perspective. First and foremost, managers must take it upon themselves to become proactive by keeping abreast of emerging trends and understanding them not only from a technical standpoint, but evaluating them from a higher-level, strategic standpoint. Management training courses on technology focus specifically on the ways that emerging technologies affect businesses on a high level. This is the type of knowledge needed to make conscious and informed decisions on what aspects of new technologies will affect your organization in the next few years and transition your thoughts into strategic action and implementation.

Collaboration and information sharing, within and outside of enterprises, are two areas that have made huge strides that management training can help your organization harness to improve business strategies. The advent of user-created content sharing has transformed the way that enterprises communicate. Enterprise-class blogs and wikis boost productivity and innovation by enabling ad hoc teams to participate in complex, collaborative problem solving, and then make the results available to the rest of the organization with ease. Information technology training gives managers the high-level information about these technologies that they need to bring them effectively into your organization.

Large companies will often struggle the most with adopting new business strategies based on emerging technologies due to organizational inertia and the lag that comes from changing any integrated system. Not only do the right people need to be convinced of the value of a new application, but the proper infrastructure often needs to be developed or tweaked to implement the technology. This is where the importance of management information technology training to understand the potential impact of technology from a business perspective comes into play.

Management Training for Appropriate Technology Selection and Recommendation

Management training courses typically deal with logistics and personnel management but fail to guide managers when it comes to making decisions about technology. As a manager in today’s world, what really matters isn’t just your ability to lead and maintain technology infrastructure – it’s your ability to deliver positive business outcomes. Cutting IT costs and managing infrastructure are only part of the equation. Technology must also reduce business risk and generate new opportunities and growth. Information technology training can help managers transition their views of technology as an isolated island off the coast of a business and look at it as one working part of the whole machine that is the organization.

Finding a cool application that has all the shiny bells and whistles you dreamed of and recommending implementation based on the technology’s sheer innovation is no longer enough to make a good business case. Before presenting a recommendation, you must understand every step involved with the successful implementation of the technology. A thorough study will need to be conducted to determine what departments, processes and functions will need to be modified in order to benefit from the new technology. Management training courses focusing on information technology gives managers the tools they need to make that determination.

If you are going to make an impact on the decision makers of a business, you have to get on their level. When it comes down to making a decision, for many business people it is all about the numbers. That is why it is essential to participate in information technology training courses that help you perform your due diligence and gather the data you need to compile hard numbers around your recommendation. What is the true return on investment that the company can expect to achieve by implementing the technology? It is much easier to convince an associate of the merits of your idea if you can show a real increase in profit based on proven research instead of attempting to sway them based on opinion only.

Conclusion

Technology is rapidly changing the way that businesses communicate and function every day. It is important for managers to take a proactive role in understanding emerging technology trends and how they may affect a company’s business model by investing in an ongoing program of information technology training for all levels of staff. Management training in particular is essential for ensuring the right technologies are pursued to ensure business success. Viewing technology as a direct influencer on the business as a whole ensures consistent alignment of goals throughout the enterprise.