It is no longer possible for any business to avoid technology if they want to survive in today’s business world. But if you are a creative service business, then technology may seem like a dark lurking shadow. Stick with me and I will share with you some tips for ensuring that you don’t get lost in the ever-changing digital landscape, and feel comfortable enough making some decisions about the technology needs of your business.
The problem is that the world of technology is built by developers, who are comfortable with technology because that is their life. Too often, they forget that “ordinary people” will need to use their products, and many of those are not living and breathing technology.
You are expected to keep up with the never-ending stream of technology products and services that launch daily, understand the details of how they work, see the bigger picture of where they fit in the world and leap at the chance to add them to your arsenal of tools. But you have a business to run and, perhaps even more importantly to you, you have your own product to create. You don’t want to have to be a tech guru on top of all that.
You might think that your only options are to avoid technology until you can avoid it no longer or to hire someone to magically turn your business into a technology super-power with the latest and greatest (for now). But I am here to reassure you that you can make technology into a valuable and productive part of your business on your own without driving yourself crazy or into bankruptcy.
The biggest problem with the two approaches mentioned before is that both of those options don’t take into account the same simple fact – technology is always changing. Avoiding it only leaves you further and further behind the curve, which let’s face it makes you want to hide even more as you start to feel completely out of sync with the world. But at the same time, focusing on the latest and greatest might mean you are stuck with that investment as the technology outstrips it or changes direction completely.
5 Step Approach
Here is my 5-step approach to dealing with technology change and figuring out how to fit it in with your business:
- Stay current
- Look at the trends
- Identify most impactful area of business
- Decide on an approach
- Accept good-enough
1. Keep up with what’s happening
You don’t need to be an expert or even understand the nitty-gritty details of every technological breakthrough and fancy app. But you do need to have a broad concept of the changes that are happening.
It may seem overwhelming but the easiest way is to identify one or two online publications that cover technology and business, as they will not only highlight the technology changes but illustrate the impacts on the way people do business. This will make it easier for you to understand how you might be affected by or can make use of the latest wave.
A good place to start is the technology section of a business site, like Entrepreneur.com.
2. Think about the big picture
Don’t worry too much about each and every new app that launches. That’s not what’s important for you. Use that big creative brain of yours and look beyond individual apps and companies to see the trends taking place across an industry. The hottest app today may crash and burn within a year, but the broader trend it represented may be growing and taking over the way we work.
Crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and the sharing economy all began with individual sites and apps, but have become macro-forces in today’s world. This article on Creative Income shares tips on how creative businesses and entrepreneurs can spot trends.
3. Decide on your key problem areas
Although there pretty much is an app for everything, there is no need to implement technology solutions for every microscopic aspect of your business. If you are not in the technology business then being on the cutting edge is probably not super-important to you. Instead you need to identify those areas of your business that would most benefit from the upsides of technology.
If introducing software would help you reduce costs, save you significant amounts of time, or make you lots of money, then it is worth considering. So look at your business and figure out the parts that you hate doing or that cost you too much money or time.
Some great suggestions on “How to Automate the Boring Parts of your Business” are listed in this post on Business2Community
4. Find your technology sweet-spot
Purists in the world of technology will often advocate for a best-in-class approach, by which they mean always using the best solution for each problem area. So if you need software to run your business, they would suggest you look for the absolute best accounting software, then the best HR software, then the best marketing software. That approach could net you a world class solution to your problems, but the trade off is that you may then need further investment to get them to work together.
Another approach is the all-in-one (one-stop) solution, which puts forward platforms that solve as many problems as possible. The ease of implementation does mean that you might be lacking specific functionality or the ability to customize to fit your business.
Or you could take the approach of focusing on interconnectedness and just make sure that the pieces you choose are open and can work well with other software. These are very different philosophies, each with its trade-offs.
5. Forget about perfection
The futuristic dream of a technology-driven future where all problems are solved and there are no issues is just that – a dream. No technology solution will solve all your problems. And trying to find the solution that will is a surefire way to spend more money and time researching technology than you should, especially when you could spend that on your business instead.
In most cases, whether you have opted for a custom solution or bought something to do the job, there will always be features you wish it had. Once you start working with a particular technology, ideas will come to you, usually in the form of “if only.” But if you want to build your business, then perfection is your enemy. Decide on the 90% that will be good enough and move on.
But be careful
So there you have it – 5 solid tips for embracing technology and learning how to incorporate it into your business. But I have one last piece of advice, a gotcha that often traps those looking for a hammer for their nail. Technology may not be the solution. Be very careful not to fall into the trap of simply throwing technology at a problem.
Technology is a tool, but in order to identify the best tool for the job, you need to ensure that you have identified the problem correctly. The best way to do that is to first pay attention to your systems. Don’t have systems? Check out this article on creating business systems by Neil Patel.
So which areas of your business are driving you crazy that you wish could be made simpler or automated? Have you tried creating a system for it? Did that help or are you still looking for a way to improve it with technology? Share your experience in the comments below.