Rapidly changing technology can be a headache for business leaders, whether they are executives or small business owners like Realtors. Bottom-line: Businesses periodically need to upgrade or replace computer systems, or risk falling behind.
“One thing companies need to remember is, as the capabilities of technology continue to rise, so do the expectations of their customers,” says Nicole McMackin, president of Irvine Technology Corp. “The bar keeps being raised higher and higher in terms of how quickly and efficiently customers expect to be served.”
But weighing whether to invest in updated technology when other needs are pressing can leave management guessing.
Is it time to junk the system and start over? Or is everything fine—at least for now?
“Frankly, unless they happen to work for a high-tech company, most business leaders probably don’t consider information technology to be one of their areas of expertise,” McMackin says. “I’m sure most of them prefer to spend their time and energy on the other pressing matters. They look at the struggling IT system they don’t completely understand, and about all they can think about is the cost they are going to face to improve it. So they keep putting off a decision.”
Inaction can come with its own costs, she says like:
• Low employee morale and production. Employees will dread coming to work when they know they must do battle daily with troublesome technology. Employees want to log in to the system and work. An outdated system leaves them frustrated, and production suffers when it works too slowly or freezes.
• Cybersecurity threats. While technology is a great asset, it also represents a potential risk for every company. Hackers are hard at work looking for weak links in IT security systems. An aging system provides a weaker defense against potential breaches that could damage a company’s equipment and reputation.
• Missing out on potential cost reductions. Technology can be expensive, but McMackin says the right technology can be a solution to rising expenses in other areas of a company. An efficient computer system can help reduce costs and potentially increase revenues. Remember, too, downtime and outages chip away at the profit margin. Many businesses barely function—or don’t—when computer systems crash.
McMackin says most companies with an aging system could benefit from an IT assessment that would help answer questions that leave business leaders fretting. “That would tell you how well your technology infrastructure matches up with the goals and needs of your business. A good assessment will tell you if you are spending too much or too little, and can point out ways you can gain the most leverage from technology,” she says.
But any decisions shouldn’t be about technology for the sake of technology. This isn’t like consumers lining up to buy the latest gadget-filled cellphone just because it’s the trendy thing to do.
“Businesses don’t need something just because it’s the newest and flashiest thing,” McMackin says. “They need what will help them succeed with their bottom line.”