IT is about time and money. Businesses invest in IT in the belief it will save them time.
Let me focus on two aspects here, investment and time. Being in a minority group from a technology perspective is either very good or very bad.
If you are in the minority group that derives massive time savings from your use of technology, such as an online business that can process thousands of transactions each minute without human interaction, then you know the cost of the technology is well returned. This is the sort of minority group you want to be in.
However, if you are in the kind of minority group that has custom-built technology tools that replicate mainstream or off-the-shelf solutions and it only helps you make a few thousand dollars a year of revenue then you are in the wrong minority group.
Many companies choose minority groups such as using a Linux Mail Server in a small business because it reduces licensing fees.
However, in my experience the productivity impact of these decisions can be much larger than the cost of buying and maintaining mainstream solutions such as Microsoft Exchange Server or Office 365.
The costs will depend on who in the business maintains the technology; what that resource could generate for the business if they were doing their primary job; and on how big the productivity cost is to the other staff in the business. Unfortunately these costs are often completely hidden until they blow out of proportion or until the organisation’s technology falls so far behind the rest of industry that migration or upgrades become essential.
My focus as I travel through the business world is to ensure the IT systems in place are offering a fair rate of return on investment to the companies that implement them by ensuring the investment made in the solutions is returned in productivity and capability gains. All too often I see cost-cutting and expense reduction leading to a net loss of productivity or capability.
Taking capability to extreme levels produces leverage. If you can gain leverage from your technology to take your business to a new level then you can break out of the mid-market constraints that probably are not much fun in the current economic climate and move on to enjoying the spoils of productivity where your idea is amplified by technology.
Don’t just settle for upgrading to the latest versions of the software you use today. Seek the ultimate destination for technology in your industry. Automate what it is that you do so you can make money while you sleep. Or develop your technology so you can control the growth of your workforce to a level where it generates significant business profit. That is a minority group that it is worth belonging to.
If you are drowning in technology problems simply due to failure to invest in technology of any sort, then you will be too busy doing not much at all to see the real opportunity in your industry when it walks in the door.
So my suggestion is to invest in mainstream technology to remove problems and then invest in niche technology to gain a competitive advantage.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.