Using Technology To Enhance Your Business

Our second annual summit asks experts to focus on the issues and innovations that can help small companies be more productive and efficient

trying to deliver to them? That really should be the reason to start using technology, and that will lead you down a logical path. In a lot of cases, people have the technology but they don’t explore it fully before waiting to go on to something else.

JYLLA FOSTER: As you look at look at technological changes and the pace of change, It’s important that businesses have a plan that’s not just a business strategy but a technology plan. Every time a new product or new software idea comes out onto the marketplace, you just can’t change your accounting package because there’s now a new and better product. So understand how you stage, manage and scale your business to what’s happening in the marketplace, without becoming obsolete given the rapid changes that we are all dealing with.

LARRY SALTER: One of the things you have to keep in mind is where standards and open systems are going for your technology to interface externally. You can get locked into proprietary types of technology that can’t work with things on the outside. So you have to know what standards are on the Internet, and what voice and data standards will be out there in the future so you won’t build yourself into a proprietary box.

HOWLETTE: Let’s say a businessperson says, ‘I’m not a technology company, I’m a manufacturer, and I do a lot of work with General Motors. I sell them some part that they use for their cars.’ If that company focuses on increasing deliveries and shortening delivery time, and doesn’t deal with technology and how it’s going to impact their business, they may lose GM because GM is going to make the decision that they are not doing business with a company unless they do EDI [electronic data interchange].

BE: How important is a chief technology officer or outside consultant in your planning?

HOWLETTE: As you start to recognize the return on your technology investments, it’s a good idea to look at bringing in someone who can focus on making sure you recognize all the potential of that technology– and keep an eye on what’s coming down the road so you’re not investing in things that are going downhill.

FOSTER: Having someone who is really managing your business and the technology part of your business is very important, so you don’t get caught up in the technological advances that vendors may be proposing for your company. But it’s not just the chief technology officer at a company that has to understand technology. A lot of the creative ideas may come from other parts of the organization.

BE: What are the key business processes an entrepreneur has to look at and understand when implementing technology in the workplace? And how do you evaluate the costs of implementing this technology?

SALTER: You’ve got to develop a business plan, prioritize according to importance and then look at the cost-benefit relationship. What can I afford technologically to enhance this particular aspect of my business? There are various associations that businesses

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