It's 2006. Does your business have a road map to address your business challenges and opportunities with new technologies?
If you answered 'no,' then you've come to the right place.
With the new year comes new and emerging technologies to consider for your business. For instance, in 2006 you might want to take advantage of wireless Internet Protocol (IP) phones, unified messaging or videoconferencing. All three are now available for small businesses, and all three can improve operational efficiencies, employee productivity and provide substantial cost savings--crucial competitive advantages for any small business.
Before you invest in any technology, however, you need a plan--a road map that matches short-term and long-term business goals with specific technology solutions to help you meet those goals.
But small businesses often don't have a plan for technology acquisition. Instead, they traditionally add technology as a means of only addressing an immediate problem. That approach can set the stage for problems as companies evolve.
In other words, without a road map, you may be investing in the wrong technology for your business at the wrong time. In addition to wasting money, you may be creating more problems than the technology was intended to solve in the first place.
Here's how to create a technology road map for your business.
Step 1: Identify current and potential business challenges
Identifying what your most pressing obstacles are today--and what they'll likely be tomorrow--can help you accurately determine the best technology solutions for overcoming those challenges. Some common challenges small businesses face include:
- improving operational efficiencies,
- enhancing customer responsiveness,
- containing costs of doing business, and
- keeping data secure.
Step 2: Map the new technology solution to the biggest business challenge
For your 2006 (and beyond) technology plan, connect the dots between your biggest business challenge and the specific technology solution that addresses that challenge.
For example, if improving operational efficiency is your biggest challenge, consider investing in a secure computer network foundation. Such a flexible communications platform supports wireless networks, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other communications tools. A secure computer network foundation goes a long way toward improving your business's operational efficiencies by enabling employees to communicate more easily wherever they go.
Similarly, if reducing operating costs is your top priority, consider a converged network capable of carrying voice and video as well as data. You'll have only one network to manage, which reduces costs; you can take advantage of voice over internet protocol, a great way to cut telecommunications costs; and so on (read "Should Your Business Switch to VoIP?").
Peter Alexander is vice president of worldwide commercial marketing at Cisco Systems Inc., the leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the internet.