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Just don’t say no

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Many companies argue that certain new technologies are just not for them. Either they are too costly or they don’t suit their company profile. WESLEY LYNCH, CEO of Realmdigital disagrees though, saying that these arguments no longer hold water as barriers begin to crumble.

Quite often one hears the argument that this or that technology may work wonders elsewhere, ‚just not in my company or industry‚ . The problem, one hears, is that ‚we’re too boring for Facebook‚ , that ‚our customers aren’t mobile and print their e-mails‚ , or that ‚we can’t afford the computing infrastructure‚ .

Increasingly, these arguments are losing their power. The degree of tech-enablement in business is already staggering today, and the time to value diminishes with each new technology, as economies of scale drive affordability.

Crumbling barriers

Most companies wouldn’t think of operating without communication or collaboration technologies, an office productivity suite or an accounting application. Many already use fax, e-mail, instant messaging, video-, audio- or Web-conferencing, voice-over-IP, unified messaging and broadband.

If traditional software is too costly they use free downloads like OpenOffice or hosted alternatives like Google Docs. And given the success of those, they’re dipping into other cloud-based packages offering anything from backup to e-mail, accounting and CRM.

Even marketing solutions ‚ long thought the exclusive preserve of larger enterprises, are increasingly being used by companies of all sizes in all industries. Google AdWords led the way followed by search engine optimisation, affordable e-commerce and lately, social media campaigns. One by one, the barriers to technological sophistication are crumbling, opening up new worlds of efficiency, functionality and marketing reach to all companies.

Questioned

At some point before their broad acceptance, all these technologies have had their value questioned (whether in terms of cost or relevance). Right now, it is the turn of social networks. Before that, it was mobility and an online presence.

Today, it seems incredible that this was ever the case. Today these are proven technologies that don’t need any further championing. The only thing standing between you and one or all of them is how soon a company like yours can derive value from it.

Top tech ‚ averse or conversant?

Ultimately, there are two viewpoints on broad technology adoption. Either you think your type of company has no business with it, or you think it can benefit all companies ‚ including yours ‚ at the right time and in a way that makes sense for you.

Gauge your reaction to some of the technologies listed below. Are you for or against them? Is this justified?

– Your own website ‚ even a small township tour operator using an Internet caf√© can derive value from an e-commerce site ‚ and there are free alternatives. You might be surprised to find out just how reliant people are on the Web for finding what they’re looking for.

– But admittedly, for many small companies Facebook is a perfectly good online platform for engaging customers in a highly interactive and dynamic format. And yet, you ask, what does a bank or fuel company hope to gain from being on it? A ‚staid’ brand may not get much traction from a straightforward social presence but it just might if it uses Facebook for a specific purpose, such as customer feedback or to drive awareness through a sponsorship or promotion. (In many cases Facebook is a good foil for a website as it is more suited to promotional campaigns, whereas websites are more suited to fully-fledged e-commerce and enterprise integration.)

– Accounting packages ‚ Many businesses still use Excel when there are very powerful, free, easy-to-use online accounting packages that make it easy to automate financial administration.

– Customer management ‚ Small businesses can derive great benefit from free-to-use Google Docs to manage customer accounts and contact databases.

– Free enterprise-grade e-mail – With Google’s enterprise-grade e-mail (featuring full Exchange integration, shared calendar and large free mailbox with no infrastructure management headache), no small business realistically needs to buy these applications from an ISP anymore. But what about a small township business without the hardware to run traditional server apps? It need no longer be at a disadvantage: it can run a fully-fledged tech-enabled business from an Internet caf√©, with none of the investment, maintenance or backup headache.

– PBX ‚ Asterisk is the most well-known free open source PBX. Consisting of software installed on a PC and low-cost telephony cards, the capital outlay for a full-blown PBX is minimal. Small and medium-sized enterprises are needlessly stuck with phones, when voice-over-IP giant Skype is a powerful, low-cost alternative (10-way videoconferencing!).

With the help of a few judiciously chosen low-cost alternatives, businesses of all sizes can enjoy the same technology enablement of big businesses, without the cost. And with the right approach, technologies whose application may seem questionable in your business could have a great and unforeseen impact.

Do not be stuck in outmoded ways of thinking that could prevent you from experiencing the dramatic business enablement of technology.

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