Keeping up to date with technology is essential for every business owner, even those who don’t run technology companies.
Office productivity software, security systems, computers and networks, phone systems, and more are all impacted by technology. Whether it’s a simple point-of-sale system that tracks daily purchases or a sophisticated network linking people and places around the globe, technology helps organizations maintain a competitive edge.
While maintaining the elements of your business that utilize technology is already part of your day-to-day life, keeping up with relevant technology and making sure you're getting the most out of it is best if done in a systematic and efficient way.
You should be able to integrate technology awareness into your business in a smooth and efficient four-step process that will cost very little because it’s based on resources already available. Once you get the system down, the time required to keep up with technology—just minutes a day—will be a fraction of its worth to your business.
Determine Your Needs
Take time to think about what is relevant to you. For example, if the primary function of your business is sales, you likely have a sales staff that spends time out of the office connecting with clients. That means effective tools for communication will be one of your needs.
Start out by listing all the items you and your staff use to stay connected with one another and with clients. In terms of hardware, this likely involves cell phones and laptop and/or tablet computers in addition to the phone system and computer network in your office.
Then list key things you and your staff need to be able to do with that technology. Maybe the ability to participate in conference calls is important. Maybe everyone needs access to the same spreadsheet file to input or update data.
Knowing what you need is the first step to being able to identify and implement the most appropriate technology.
Assess Available Resources
Let's say you and your employees are connected through a popular product such as Microsoft Office, but you are using Android-based cell phones and computers and tablets running Mac OS. While it might not be an ideal setup, it's doable because Office is compatible with both Google's Android and Apple's Mac systems.
What you need to do is make sure you are following announcements from all three entities—Microsoft, Google, and Apple—about software updates and changes to features that might impact how you and your staff are able to function.
In addition to getting information directly from those companies, online resources such as CNET, TechRadar, and others typically are ahead of the curve when it comes to reporting on relevant changes and updates.
It's also a good idea to seek out training sessions in your community that are relevant to the technology you are using and then send employees who best can benefit from them.
Rank the Resources
Once you've had a chance to review online resources or other publications and/or attend some training sessions, you should have an idea about what works best. Based on where you think you are getting the best information, prioritize which resources will get most of your time.
Some resources you've reviewed may prove to be irrelevant to you, but others should prove to be most accessible or easiest to follow, and those are the ones you want to spend time reviewing.
Make Time to Use the Resources
Schedule time every week to actually follow through. Maybe Tuesday mornings are otherwise slow for you, so you can block off however much time you need to check up on any relevant changes to the technology you are using in your office.
If you have a dedicated information technology (IT) person whose job is to stay abreast of these updates and changes, maybe this is when you schedule a weekly meeting with him or her to brief you on changes on the horizon.