5 Reasons Why Your Technology Strategy Is As Important As Your Business Plan

23 Nov 2013

When I was growing up, it wasn't uncommon to find stores that were cash-only or explicitly did not accept credit cards. I remember when my parents made the transition from the old carbon-copy credit card slips and the associated hand-driven slider to an electronic device that plugged into the phone line. My first job was at a restaurant that didn't accept credit cards at all.

Since then, a business decision not to accept credit cards has become an almost sure-fire way to go out of business and the barriers have simultaneously been eliminated thanks to companies like PayPal and Square. In fact, this past summer I observed a vendor at a farmers' market send a colleague to the nearest authorized Apple retailer to get a Square reader since he had left his own at home.

In a similar manner, technology has become an integral part of all businesses in every industry. As with the ubiquity of credit cards, this is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that failure to embrace technology and include it as a high-level part of your business strategy is to convert incredible technical opportunity into overwhelming technical threat. The good news is that obstacles continue to be broken down as technology becomes more accessible and companies and consultants make it their business to help yours.

Here are 5 reasons why you can't ignore technology:

1. Social Media

No discussion of how technology has changed the face of business would be complete without mentioning the rise of social media and the effect that it has had on just about everybody it has come into contact with. Books upon books have been written about how to build a brand almost exclusively on the power of social media (my favorite so far is Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It!). The extent to which social media connects people is absolutely unparalleled � you can have a conversation with your customers both before and after they visit your business.

Remember (during the infancy of the internet) when TV ads mentioned their AOL Keyword? They disappeared from view for a while when AOL lost their dominance, but now they're back in a slightly different form: twitter hashtags. This Forbes article gives a very high-level explanation of why twitter hashtags are nothing to sneeze at.

2. Mobile Devices

Between all the tablets, smartphones, and hybrid devices lies an immense opportunity. 79% of smartphone users have their phone with them for all but two hours of their waking day, according to the study cited by this article. This means that, even if you ignore the potential of social media, involving mobile devices by texting your audience and/or having a "shortcode" can have a significant impact.

Other ways to take advantage of mobile devices are responsive web design (so your site looks good regardless of screen size) or investing in a mobile application. Both bring your information directly to your audience's fingertips and mean you're never more than a tap away.

3. Your Audience Is Sophisticated

If the number of people without a tablet or smartphone is small, the number of people without access to a computer is even smaller. In 2013, people have come to expect electronic methods of exchanging information unless they're dealing with insurance companies or governments (and even the exception is going away, despite the recent launch issues of healthcare.gov). If you exchange information with your customers, clients, or colleagues and expect paper documents, now is the time to look into ways to digitize your process. If your process has significant legal ramifications, look into the various regulations that have permitted certain technologies (for instance, electronic signatures) and see if they might apply to your business.

4. Technology Isn't Just An Add-On

Ask anyone who converted their financial records from paper to electronic (if they did it recently, also ask them why they held out for so long). Ask just about any doctor who is still practicing and had to start digitizing all their medical records. Better yet, ask any of the doctors who decided that retirement sounded like a better option. The sentiment will be the same: including technology from the start is a whole lot easier than trying to add it on later. There a variety of reasons, but the one that is the most compelling in my opinion is that it always helps to have a unified strategy from the beginning when it comes to anything.

5. Technology Isn't A Fad

Let me make a distinction here: certain types of technology may be a fad (e.g. people may think smart watches are a pretty cool idea today, but in 5 years we may find that our smartphones really did the trick all along), but technology isn't. Computer technology has been progressing at an incredible pace for more than half a century and it's only getting faster. If implementing a technology strategy sounds hard today, imagine what it will be like 5 years from now. There's no time like the present to start.

Thankfully, You're Not Alone

Don't worry --- you don't have to learn all about every technology option available to you overnight. There are plenty of professionals who would be more than happy to sit down with you over a cup of coffee and talk about how you can take advantage of technology. If you want more information, just click the button below!

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