It was not until the recent Eskom situation that I realised once more, how dependent we have become on technology. The company I work for is very tech savvy – we have everything that can open and close, from an espresso machine to boost our creativity during crunch-time, to  Office365 which allows us to conduct our work from anywhere in the world, granted that we aren’t experiencing the effects of load-shedding. But even that is no longer an issue since we have acquired a generator to run things during the dark times. The question is, is it worth it to rely on technology to streamline the ways in which we do business? When I speak about technology here, I refer primarily to all the wonderful products currently available on the market geared at business productivity, and not necessarily espresso machines.

Technology has not only impacted on our personal lives, but the business world is almost entirely unrecognisable from a few decades ago. Although I’m not old enough to actually know what I’m talking about from experience, my search engine told me all I needed to know. Technology has not only changed the face of business, but also the pace at which businesses operate. According to an article on HowStuffWorks.com “Whatever can speed up production will draw in more business.” They highlight some of the ways in which the face of business has changed since the advent of information technology:

  • Most business is conducted through personal computers in some shape or form, offering solutions to the organisation of a flood of information.
  • Given that technology can overcome the barrier of distance, services may be outsourced to various parts of the world – business is no longer limited to local service providers and this saves both time and money on travel cost.
  • Handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets have become a widely used business tool, allowing access to the internet, emails and files stored on a cloud (such as OneDrive and Dropbox) from anywhere in the world. Nowadays there is an app for absolutely everything; we can book flights, pay bills and salaries, have a web conference and connect to business networks, with devices the size of a hand, from the comfort of an airport lounge, your home, a coffee shop or wherever you might find yourself.
  • Advertising has become accessible to small businesses through, for instance Google Ads, and it has become increasingly easy to find the goods and services you need through the use of search engines and consequent fast online comparisons.

These are but a few obvious examples of how information technology has impacted on business. The question however, still remains whether technology has been a help or a hindrance. I asked around, and a term to describe the effect of technology on business that stood out for me, was “automation paralysis.” Some, often from the days where computers were the size of buildings, believe that people have become so reliant on technology, that they are no longer fully capable, or even willing to put in the work themselves. Most technology is geared toward streamlining processes to make life simpler, more convenient, efficient and cost-effective. Now these are all great endeavours, but what happens if we experience an electricity blackout and we don’t have generators to power all of our fancy gadgets and apps? Do we revert back to the typewriter and manual filing systems?

On the other, less apocalyptic side of things, we would be remiss to overlook all the tangible successes attributable to technology in the business sphere. According to research conducted by BCG for Microsoft, Tech-savvy SMEs grow revenue 15% faster and grow jobs about two times faster than those using less advanced technology.

It all comes down to finding what is right for you– you don’t want machines to take over your company, but your business could greatly benefit from implementing strategically selected information technology. The “How Can Technology Help Me”-section on the Microsoft Virtual Academy course, “Start Your Own Business, Part 2” (http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/start-your-own-business-part-2) recommend the following steps when deciding to implement technology in your business:

In conclusion, technology can be a great benefit to your business when implemented correctly, to suit your technology needs and budget. There are great free tools available, if you take the time to search. A technology upgrade, therefore, does not necessarily have to cost you a great deal. My advice – try to stay up to date with what is out there by regularly browsing tech-related websites and remain on the lookout for products related to the needs of your business. If something doesn’t work for you, find an alternative and don’t be afraid of playing around with technology. It won’t bite. Not until the unlikely event that the whole artificial intelligence/singularity/rise of the machines scenario becomes a reality.

Embrace technology to help grow your business. Here are a few websites you can look at for some inspiration: