Information Technology (“IT”) is now a part of every company’s budget. Computers, software, connectivity, storage, and now security have soared in importance and spending in every business venture, large and small. Unfortunately, many small and medium sized businesses view their IT efforts as a cost of doing business rather than as a strategy to fiercely compete in their respective markets.
The most innovative companies are using technology to disrupt their markets as well as transform their own businesses. Instead of just a method to reduce costs and increase employee productivity, these companies enrich the customer experience and improve quality of life for their employees. Companies that rise to this challenge can shift their market position from the “threatened” to the “conquerors”.
5 Ways to Use Technology as a Competitive Weapon in your Business
1. Improve the customer experience
Creating a more elegant and engaging customer experience is the number one way to use technology to create a competitive advantage. The most impactful IT-driven companies are those whose technology is focused on the customer. In your business, how could your customers have an unexpected and unbelievable experience interacting with your company? What information do they need? How much faster and more elegantly could you provide it to them? Focusing IT innovation on the customer will generate powerful ideas that could disrupt your entire industry and could change the trajectory of your company.
2. Improve your employees’ experience
Technology can be a huge morale booster. While it is true that no one really likes change, it is also true that employees do not like manual and menial tasks that could be done by computers and algorithms. Concurrently investing in technology and in training to help employees do higher value work will let employees know that they are making a larger contribution to the success of your company.
3. Improve the quality and efficiency of internal processes
Increasing the use of technology, particularly at the transaction and customer experience levels, will drive better and more efficient processes into your businesses. Too many companies have to process entire transactions, or portions of every transaction, with some type of manual intervention. Sometimes this is the result of offering too many options to customers or making promises outside of policy. Well-designed technology systems typically have excellent and efficient embedded processes that will drive down processing time, costs, and errors. Committing your company to use technology across all its transaction sets will create a more nimble and competitive company.
4. Improve the speed and accuracy of data used to operate the business
Committing to use technology from start to finish in your transaction systems, i.e., from prospect management to collecting cash, paying vendors, and reporting results, will enable you to gather more information about your business faster and with more accuracy. Each time a manual process is inserted into the transaction or reporting stream, it slows down the overall process, increases the risk of error, and likely reduces the amount of data available in the system to report and/or analyze.
5. Improve your brand in the market
Once you have used technology to create an awesome customer experience and improve the quality of life for your employees, you can leverage your successes to reposition your brand as a market innovator and leader. Customers, investors, vendors, and prospective employees all want to be associated with forward-thinking and innovative companies. Technology is not just a way to be more productive and efficient; it can completely transform your company’s competitive position in the market.
Technology can be much more than just the cost of doing business. By thinking first about your customer and then committing the necessary resources, technology can transform your company into a competitive force in your market.