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Choosing technology that suits your business needs

While running your own business can be extremely rewarding, as with many things in life it also offers its fair share of stressful situations and woes. Suddenly every decision falls on you which can be especially difficult if you don’t have all the pertinent information to make the right choices. Fortunately in today’s tech-savvy world, there is a tool or platform to inform or solve most issues related to running a business.

Technology is a great support system, allowing entrepreneurs to run their businesses efficiently and cost-effectively – whenever and wherever they need to work. Unfortunately, many small business owners find looking for technology platforms daunting and often wrongly associate many tools with larger businesses. While it is true that the scale of a technology platform differs between a large and small business, the needs remain the same: digital marketing, sales, inventory, customer service and analytics capabilities. These are exactly the kind of tools that could help a small business grown and run profitably.

So, how can small businesses make sure that they are investing in technology that is right for them? Here are five steps to consider:

Avoid growing pains by picking a technology platform that will grow with you

While in the past, small businesses had to implement different software solutions to run different aspects of their business, today’s packaged software solutions give small business owners the same capabilities as larger businesses. So while today you may think you simply need a tool to track your sales and inventory, having access to digital marketing and analytics capabilities may help you to open up new streams of revenue that you hadn’t even considered before. It’s about having the flexibility to grow your business and improve the ways you serve your customers.

Pick the right technology at the right price

Make sure you understand clearly what difference it will make to your business and think ahead to what you want your business to look like in the future. This will help you create your budget and stick to it. Remember, it’s not just about buying the technology, it’s also about how it’s used in your business – who will be using it and for what purpose? You need to think about making sure the solution you choose is simple to use and easy to implement. Setting a budget and sticking to it will help you avoid buying add-ons you don’t need.

Protect your company

Small businesses might think they don’t have anything worth stealing compared to bigger companies but according to Symantec, nearly half of the attacks registered globally in 2015 were on small businesses with fewer than 250 employees. Small businesses need to make sure that any new technology they introduce will integrate well with existing systems and is completely secure. Make sure that your most important information is safe first. You should check certificates, make sure any spam is blocked and never opt for something that is intended for consumers rather than businesses – it won’t be secure enough.

Prioritise mobile

According to The IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, in 2015 27 per cent of retail sales took place online and nearly half of those sales were made via a mobile device. Mobility is essential to your customers, so as a small business owner, ensuring you have a great mobile presence needs to be one of your top priorities. Likewise, being able to run your business from a mobile device should be a key priority when choosing technology that will help you run your business. Your customers expect you to offer the same level of service as your larger competitors so you need to be able to check your inventory and communicate with your customers at any time and from the palm of your hand. Choosing software that is natively mobile gives you that freedom.

Understand the limitations

Technology is often the tool that allows a business owner to keep their personal and professional worlds separate, while still making sure both are well-managed. Whether it’s book keeping, taxes, or marketing, being able to turn to software that holds objective, unbiased information is a blessing in many forms. It provides data-based decision making and encourages less reliance on the inconsistent “gut feeling” that so many business owners have relied on for years. But technology isn’t a cure-all. It will not tell you the answer, just help you get there.

Investing in the right technology will help you in the day to day running of your business and also ease the strain and stress associated with owning a business. Since the risk of success sits squarely on your shoulders, any comfort you can find via greater insight, as well as tools built to suit your specific requirements is key - allowing for planning and proven insight to accompany that infamous entrepreneur’s gut feel. Together, these are a powerful combination.

Toby Davidson, Vice President of Product Strategy, SAP Anywhere