When it comes to implementing technology for your business, planning is everything. We rely on tech to help us get more done, keep track of essential business operations, and keep the trains running. That being said, technology is costly and takes valuable time and training to implement, making it all the more difficult to change later if things don’t work out or you have a different need.
How do you plan for success? Follow these tips and make a technology blueprint that your business can rely on to make it happen.
1. Call the SWOT Team
First, begin by conducting a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Cisco put together a helpful worksheet to get you started. The goal is to use this line of thinking to identify major goals for your business so you can focus on finding the tools that will help you accomplish them.
2. Identify Your Strengths
When it comes to your strengths, you want to focus on what’s tangible. What are your biggest assets? What are your biggest accomplishments over the last year? What is your competitive advantage? Looking at this list, you need to start thinking about how technology plays a role in these strengths, and where it could be used to even further leverage an advantage.
For example, if you have excellent customer service, maybe there’s a way to use technology to even further exploit that advantage by enabling them to expand their bandwidth. A smartly-implemented chatbot could take the load off high volume but low effort calls like letting someone know what your business hours are, freeing up your team to focus on scoring real wins that will convert your customers into advocates. Or maybe you can use AI-generated insights to predict a customer’s problems before they happen. Using tech that amplifies and emphasizes your strengths is how you build brand staying power.
3. Be Honest About Your Weaknesses
Weaknesses are about where there’s room for improvement, both from your perspective and your customers’, and what you’re already doing to try to address those weaknesses. Most importantly, think about where your competitors have an edge over you. Honesty is the best policy for this because understanding your weaknesses will help you identify tools that can level the playing field.
If your competitor seems to be doing twice as much as you are in the same amount of time, you probably need to get serious about incorporating project management software that can streamline your efforts, which are becoming increasingly specialized. Make sure you know what tools are available for your industry, especially if can help you turn something you’re weak at into a strength.
4. Take Advantage of Opportunities
When looking at your opportunities, think about how things are changing and shifting. What about the environment and tech landscape has changed that might affect the context in which you do business? Strengths are definitely opportunities, but with the right tools, you can actually view your weaknesses as opportunities, too.
One example to illustrate this is the rise of virtual assistants and remote workers. Working from home has been around for awhile, but as business has increasingly moved to the cloud and collaboration tools like Slack and Sococo have become more common, it’s easier than ever to integrate someone into your team who isn’t physically there. That also means that you can expand your pool of potential hires, finding someone who is perfect for the job no matter where they are located.
5. Prepare for Threats
Finally, taking a hard look at threats is key to long-term success. Threats include obstacles to your business’s growth, but also something unexpected like data loss or theft. You need to have a plan in place to deal with these kinds of things before they happen, not after.
Technology usually evolves with a business to fill a series of needs. If you’re not thinking about it from a high-level view, this can lead to haphazard solutions that are cobbled together and don’t necessarily work well together— shadow IT isn’t just a problem for big companies. This reactive setup can make you vulnerable in a number of ways, leaving you in the lurch when a key operation entrusted to a third party breaks, or a data breach occurs.
6. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Instead, shift your mindset from reactive to proactive. We naturally want to assume that all of the technology we use on a day-to-day basis will keep running smoothly, but as humans, we underrate the likelihood that something bad is going to happen— we have an optimism bias.
Taking the worst case scenario seriously can make you feel like Chicken Little, but it’s better to be prepared than regretful. Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Jose prove it’s important to remember data loss during a disaster is a very serious threat to ongoing business operations. Making a plan to have offsite backups and other precautions aren’t that hard or expensive, unlike losing your data for good. On the security front, many businesses don’t think they’re at risk for a breach because they don’t have anything worth stealing, but half of all cyberattacks target SMBs.
Make time at every planning or strategy session to talk about technology, what solutions might be available to you, and what you’re going to do if something goes wrong. Being proactive about finding solutions that fit with not just your short-term needs but also your long-term goals is the key to sustained success and a technology blueprint that works.
What You Can Do Right Now
Technology can require a significant investment in time, training, and money to implement, so it’s important to get it right. By thinking about your goals, what you already do well and what could do better, you can find the tools that will work best for you.
- Identify your strengths and look for tech that can help you press the advantage.
- Be honest about your weaknesses, and see what’s out there to level the playing field.
- Look for opportunities to capitalize on shifting contexts and new breakthroughs.
- Be proactive rather than reactive as you prepare for threats to your business.