Does your business need to update its technological tools? You may be hesitant to make a switch, especially if you've become accustomed to your current system, but if you don't have up-to-date solutions that can make your operations more efficient, you may be wasting your already limited time and resources.
"Using the latest technology to better run your company is what gives many business owners a competitive edge while giving them more time back with their families," said Jamie Sutherland, U.S. president of online accounting software provider Xero. "As we head into 2015, it's a perfect time to reassess how you can switch to the latest business apps and online tools to work smarter so you can spend more time doing what you love."
To help business owners decide whether they should invest in new tech solutions, Xero created a list of five scenarios that could indicate the need for an upgrade. If any of the following apply to you, it's a sign that your business could use a tech overhaul. [How to Choose the Right Technology for Your Small Business]
There's no separation between your work and personal life. Small business owners are often expected to work around the clock to keep their businesses moving, but that doesn't mean there's no place for work-life balance. There are numerous apps, Internet phone systems and email organization programs available to reroute incoming work communications when you need time for yourself.
Your accounting system is a spreadsheet — or worse, a shoebox of receipts. Local spreadsheets with numerous tabs and file versions may not be the most effective way to keep track of your business finances, especially if you're always on the go. Cloud-based financial tools give you less of a headache when tax season rolls around and make it easy to manage your data from wherever you are.
You don't have time to successfully run all the different aspects of your business yourself. Business owners often serve as the entire C-suite for their company. If you find yourself spread too thin and spending too much time on marketing, accounting or HR tasks, consider automated solutions to help streamline these processes and make your role more effective.
You can't keep up with social media. Most small businesses know how important social media is to building their brand, but many can't seem to find the time to give it the attention it needs. Social media monitoring tools can help you track brand mentions, respond to customers and get a streamlined view of social conversations around your business.
Your business is growing rapidly. If your business has experienced significant growth recently, there's a good chance that the tech solutions you started out with no longer serve your needs as effectively as they did when you were a two- or three-person company. Whether you've had employee growth, expanded your business services or introduced new apps that need to be synced, re-evaluate your existing software and make sure its capabilities align with your company's trajectory.
Though you may recognize the need for a technology update, selecting the right tech solutions for your business isn't always an easy task. Keith Tanaka, vice president of small business tech support provider Digity, said small business owners have two major factors working against them in this process: They have too many other responsibilities and tasks to effectively focus on choosing a technology, and perhaps more importantly, they aren't necessarily technology experts.
"Since small business owners wear so many hats, they may not have the time to learn and think strategically about technology," Tanaka told Business News Daily. "Sometimes they know how they want the technology to work for their business but don’t understand how to make that actually happen. They may be great at accounting, cooking, insurance, real estate, dentistry, etc., but technology is its own function completely."
Tanaka noted that business owners tend to make the mistake of choosing the first and/or least expensive solution they find, just to get the purchase out of the way. He said that the problem with these approaches is that you may not have done enough research to fully understand whether the solution is right for your business needs, or whether it can be easily implemented. If it isn't, you'll end up wasting more time and money in the long run.
"Business owners should always think carefully and critically about the problem they are trying to solve," Tanaka said. "In some cases, they try to either build the solution themselves or take some existing tool and spend hundreds of hours customizing it. With so many tools built to help small businesses, chances are that the solution they're dreaming of already exists somewhere."
In addition to conducting thorough research on potential technology solutions, make sure you read customer reviews and ask for direct feedback from other business owners and tech experts before making a final purchase decision.
"There's no shame in asking for help," Tanaka said. "Business owners should seek advice from their peers and from industry experts. A good technology adviser can do a lot to help a business streamline its operations."
Originally published on Business News Daily.