What is a Business Technology Coach?

There are countless computer consultants out there. You have the geeks, the gurus, the evangelists, the computer guys, techs, nerds, network consultants, computer consultants and technologists, just to name a few. At the end of it all, regardless of what they call themselves, each provides a different level of service and technical know-how. Too many IT consultants solve every problem by asking you to throw money at it. New computers, new servers, new monitors, new printers, but every time you spend money, you are cutting into profitability. The key is for you to identify the right person for your needs. If you run a company, what you really need is a business technology coach to help you make the right decisions about your technology.

A computer consultant is usually only interested in fixing your computers. He is not versed in any business functions and is therefore incapable of assisting you with many additional services that will maximize your information technology investments. The computer guy is great when the printer breaks or when the computer goes haywire, but a business technology coach can offer you significantly more value. Large corporations hire a Chief Information Officer to fulfill this role, but a small to mid-sized business may not need that degree of full time support. In these cases, a business technology coach will serve you well.

Business Technology is any technology that serves the needs of business, including accounting, networking, and other office systems. So, while an office productivity software suite (e.g. Microsoft Office) is considered business technology, the Microsoft Xbox is not. The realization that there is a growing divide between recreational gadgets and technologies that can directly impact the business world has led to a new way of examining the direct value of technology. Business technology must add value to your company or else it is just a waste of money. There are so many products to choose from, all with competing philosophies and learning curves. More often than not, you simply accept what came with the computer when you bought it and you make due. Or, worse yet, you fall prey to that fantastic salesperson that promises the answer to all your prayers and delivers another expensive nightmare. So, the next fact you need to accept is that not all business technology is valuable to your business!

The key to modern business success is to be sure to align your business goals with your technology plans. Business and technology alignment has become a Holy Grail for large multinational corporations. Because these industrial monsters are so large, anything they can do to make themselves more flexible, more responsive to their customers, is mandatory. Fortunately, most small and medium-sized businesses are agile and fast to respond. Chances are your top customers know how to get in touch with you at any time of the day. However, just because you do not suffer from the problems of these huge dinosaur businesses does not mean you cannot benefit from business / technology alignment. A business technology coach will assist you in aligning your business goals with your technology investments.

The second benefit you can derive from a business technology coach is an understanding of your business processes. No two businesses operate exactly alike. Chances are your business practices have developed organically as your company overcomes new challenges. However, organic growth has a tendency to develop substantial inefficiencies that can impact profits. I have seen cases where companies print and mail out zero dollar invoices ($0.00) simply because the system was poorly automated. This is inefficient and expensive, and can easily be remedied. A business technology coach will analyze how you work to pinpoint and correct these inefficiencies.

A business technology coach will then use his knowledge and understanding of your computer systems and business processes to assist you in building competitive advantage. According to a 2007 IBM study, a business technology coach should be “…engaged as a strategic partner for process and culture change.” This means that the lonely computer geek typing away for hours without human contact is not the right choice if you want to succeed. A business technology coach will be capable of working with others and must possess advanced communication and social skills to act as an agent of positive change. The computer geek that is incapable of communicating ideas or is lacking in social skills is not what you need.

Also, a business technology coach understands that his job is to make recommendations. Remember, you are the ultimate decision maker, so your coach needs to present you with options, instead of ultimatums. In some rare cases there is only one course of action, but in my experience I have rarely encountered them. A business technology coach will present you with multiple options to achieve your goals. However, if so instructed, your business technology coach will make decisions on your behalf based on solid experience and understanding of your objectives.

Technology is a fact of life. From cell phones to computers, technology has become a part of our everyday lives. Whether it’s to improve efficiency or to develop new services, companies all over the world are harnessing technology to improve the way they do business. Don’t trust your technology to someone that doesn’t understand business and how you work. A business technology coach can make the difference to your success.

Managing Small Business Technology

Technology Levels the Playing Field

One advantage small business has gained over the years is the ready availability of sophisticated technology that was once the exclusive asset of the largest corporations. But with this benefit comes the additional responsibility of proficient management of that technology.

Customers Demand Better Service

Today’s customer has come to expect the greater convenience and efficiency the Internet Age, with online connectivity to company accounts, or at least computerized records, information databases, and customer management systems.

A Technology Breakdown Can Be a Public Relations Nightmare

Managing your technology may not be at the top of your list of important business activities, but perhaps it should be, because how your computers, database, network, phones, etc. are running can make the difference between being seen by your customers as competent and caring about their needs, or inefficient and unconcerned.

Asset Management Can Be a Daunting Task

Your technology must be chosen and sized to the required tasks and your staff must be proficient in its operation, but there is much more to keep track of. Your technology must be periodically upgraded. It is vital that software be updated for security and fixes. Hardware and software depreciate and must be either upgraded or replaced. When facing budget constraints, decisions must be made whether to continue using current equipment and software, or to replace it. For example, perhaps a three-year depreciation cycle could be extended to five years, but circumstances might dictate replacement, such as the inability of older equipment to support the software needed to remain competitive.

Threats Cannot Be Ignored

Damage from computer viruses, unreliable power sources, improper usage of software, etc. is a problem small business managers didn’t have to deal with in the past. Proper rules need to be set up, taught to your employees, and enforced. Commercial grade surge protectors, UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), or even backup electrical generation may be necessary for the protection of your equipment, and proper technology training of your employees is always important.

Technology Glitches Must Be Handled Properly

No matter how good your hardware, software, and employee training, technology breakdowns do occur. Properly handling them is a matter of communication. For example, if a customer experiences difficulty accessing their account, they may keep trying over and over. This uses valuable bandwidth and CPU time. Multiply this by many customers trying to access your system, and your network, as well as your technicians, could be tied up with customer requests instead of working to solve the problem. The solution is to tell your customers you are aware of the problem, apologize for the inconvenience, and let them know you are working on it.

Outsourcing As a Solution

Many businesses solve their technology management problems by contracting with an outside technology management service. It is important that you chose one which is competent, flexible in its prices and levels of service, and has a reputation for effective communication with its clients.

Managing your business technology is as important for your business as sales, employment, and other aspects of your business. Properly managed, technology can give you an edge over your competitors and bring you up to the level of the large corporations.

Contracting with the right managed support IT service company is a valuable part of a successful business strategy. InHouse Techies offer several levels of managed IT support services, including custom tailored monthly plans.

How To Maintain Technology In Your Business

Whether you like the idea or not, most businesses today survive primarily because of modern technology. Technology is used in business for keeping records, receiving payments, paying workers, and a lot more. Even small businesses today rely on technology to further advance their cause. If there is one challenge regarding technology in business, it is in the area of upgrading and maintenance, because it requires not only a budget but also a lot of patience in your part as the owner.

Not all people can easily go with the flow of high-end computers and complicated office machines. If you are one of those people, it is important that you list down all high tech equipments and machines you have in your office and learn how to operate each one of them. Familiarize yourself with computer software and programs as well, especially those that are used for database.

Organizing a technical support team is a good idea. Look for an IT expert to lead the team in making sure that every office equipment is working at full potential and that the system has zero loopholes as possible. When assigning a person to lead your tech support team, consider not only his skills and knowledge concerning business technology but also the quality of his experience as an IT expert.

Set aside a time each week and each month to have your system checked by your tech support team or by yourself. Have someone write a report regarding the check up to be submitted to you for evaluation. The feedback should contain information regarding the status of the system and if a software or hardware needs to be upgraded or not. Moreover, encourage your workers to report glitches as soon as possible.

Finally and most importantly, create a budget for the maintenance of your business technology. Avoid the mistake of waiting for equipment and system problems to become serious before deciding to spend money for repair. The best thing to do is to dedicate a certain amount of money for maintenance and repair beforehand. Doing this will help you prevent major setbacks and help you save money in the longer run.

There is absolutely no easier way to advance your business than with careful planning and preparation not only in the promotion of products itself but in the logistics and essential organ of the business body as well which is business technology.

A Very Brief Recent History of Business Technology Applications

In the late 1990’s technology soared. It was the era of the dot.com boom and subsequent bust. Many new software and hardware advances were adopted by large companies that began to integrate new technologies into their business processes.

Some of these technologies were on the ‘bleeding edge’ with buggy software, crashes, insufficient memory and so on. Online ‘cloud’ or web based applications were often not reliable and not user friendly.

For smaller companies without IT departments, being on the technology bleeding edge was the equivalent to living a nightmare.

Around 2003 the applications became more robust and bugs and crashes were less of a problem. Part of this progress was due to the dramatic drop in pricing for computer memory meaning that more robust programs could be run without crashing.

Also around this time many industries developed industry specific software to run businesses like car dealerships or bookstores. Called “management systems” this genre of software allowed smaller companies to combine all their processes under one program. This management software also did not require an onsite IT department to keep it running.

This vertical industry specific software was complemented by horizontal industry software such as bookkeeping and contact management software. This meant that a company could also run its books and keep track of prospects and customers in ways they were not able to do before.

Software and platform integrators stayed busy. The big drive during this period was to try to link and integrate software. For instance, management software would generate an invoice, note that it was paid and then route the data to the proper category in the general ledger through a linked accounting system.

It was clearly understood that the more integrated and “seamless” a software was, the more powerful and cost effective it could be. And since human error continued to be a major drawback to software applications, greater integration meant not only saving time and money but reducing errors.

As hardware and software improved it also became cheaper and more affordable to smaller companies. By 2005 and 2006 many of these applications became more mainstream and were used by smaller and smaller companies.

Perhaps the biggest advances during this time were web based applications. Companies could link all parts of their business online from sales and inventory to employee communications and human resources.

This shift also reduced costs from thousands of dollars for a software purchase to a monthly user’s fee making it much more affordable. These applications also eliminated a lot of paper.

By 2007 the second wave of technology upheaval had begun as smaller and smaller companies began using technology to manage and market.

Smaller companies began to sell more online and funnel new prospects to their sales department. These new technologies allowed companies to sell more by expanding their markets.

“In today’s marketplace if a retail or service business does not exploit all their potential markets then their competitors will,” says Eric Ressler of Zuniweb Creative Services, “it’s just not optional anymore.”

Across horizontal and vertical industries the key driver is strategy. Those companies with a solid strategy that is well executed are stronger competitors.

Technology is a critical component in almost all business strategies and in recent years technology has enabled businesses of all types to leverage their strengths in their respective markets.

As technology has become more user friendly it also has more users. Today one does not have to know html or coding to operate very sophisticated software and companies do not require a high level of technical expertise to run most software.

The big advantage is that the user can focus on business functions and not on user unfriendly software.

With these innovations has come a second wave revolution that is changing the way business operates today. As always, the issue is which companies take advantage of these opportunities and which do not.

Top Technology for Your Haulage Business

Thanks to modern technology the landscape of the haulage industry has changed significantly during the past decade. The range of technology at your disposal can be hugely beneficial to your day-to-day operations and, depending on your budget, the sky’s the limit in terms of just how ‘connected’ you want to be.

GPS Truck Tracking

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, are now fitted as standard to many vehicles, but the haulage industry has gone one step further with GPS fleet tracking technology. These sophisticated navigation and tracking systems allow businesses running multiple vehicles to be in complete control of their fleet.

The system can do everything from alerting operators about unproductive idling or speeding of vehicles to save time, money and resources with more efficient routing to pick up available loads. GPS fleet tracking technology can serve to reduce fuel costs, increase safety, and even improve driver behaviour.

Intelligent Transport Systems

While still in the trial stage, the Australian transport industry is developing an intelligent integrated network system, designed to give lorry drivers the ability to read the road ahead and literally see around corners. The Co-operative Intelligent Transport System, or C-ITS, works to connect a network of vehicles by exchanging data to create a virtual, real time road map. Tracking variables that include speed, location, distance, road conditions, weather and direction, connected users can be alerted to dangers on the road before they encounter them.

On-board Diagnostic Systems (OBDs)

While OBD’s have been around for a while, today’s sophisticated versions offer lorry drivers a host of early warning vehicle malfunction indicators. The systems monitor everything from emissions control to major mechanical components, and serves to ensure that the vehicle is running cost efficiently, and with as little environmental impact as possible.

Smartphone Apps

Today’s apps are offering everything from truck wash stops to game changing business tools that allow loads search on the move. There’s a mind-bogging array of cheap or free haulage related apps for you to download to your smartphone. In fact, for many lorry drivers, a smartphone can be utilised as a virtual mobile office. For the self-employed owner driver, a smartphone and selected apps for book-keeping, route navigation, and to track available loads may be all the technology that’s needed to run a highly successful business.

Technology is developing at a dizzying rate, and for the transport industry it’s no different. Every day brings a new innovation designed to make life easier, and savvy industry professionals understand why and how to integrate this new technology into their everyday practice in order to stay ahead of the game.