Technology, gadgets and apps for your business
Technology is an always-evolving buffet of choices, and it can be highly tempting to jump on every trend as it emerges to grab an early-adopter advantage.
As with any business decision, a little research and some careful planning can reap rich rewards down the track.
Focus on the benefits
There are a number of pitfalls to be aware of simply trying to chase the latest trends in technology, whether you’re talking gadgets, software or platforms, because being on the tip of a trend means you’re also the first to be struck by any potential pitfalls.
While there can be advantages to being an early mover, it’s also worth making practical assessments of where a technology is going, and where its benefits really are.
Think about the advantages behind new technologies and how you can apply them to your business.
Trend: Live video
Consider social video platforms of the moment such as Periscope or Meerkat, two highly popular apps that allow for instant broadcasting of content to an audience.
Both have captured an instant audience with the promise of appearing cutting edge with immediate delivery of content and low costs — all you essentially need is a smartphone and mobile or wifi broadband connection. All well and good if you’re trying to gain a little social credibility for your business, or even just put a human face on your brand.
Comfort level: Advanced
The same pitfalls that hit so many brands in the social media age are magnified when you take content into an always-live video feed.
A live video feed could be a very powerful tool for building brand identity, providing tutorials on aspects of your business process or expanding your effective advertising reach at low cost — right up until somebody in the office drops a coffee cup on their foot and inadvertently swears.
Benefit behind the trend: No waiting
Both business owners and customers want instant — instant answers, instant live connectivity, instant real-time collaboration.
If a live video app like Periscope is beyond your comfort level, consider technologies that will help you in your daily operations. Start with live conferencing on GoToWebinar or real-time collaboration on documents and spreadsheets with Google Drive.
There’s extensive hype around smartwatch concepts right now, with Apple’s Watch grabbing a lot of attention, although there’s argument about how many have actually sold. Apple’s going up against smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear platform, as well as lower-scale competitor Pebble.
Comfort level: Intermediate
If you were going to develop an app (or have one developed by an external company) to represent your business, which platform or platforms do you pick? There’s no clear “winning” platform, so it’s not a choice that can or should be made easily.
Consider carefully what you might want to present for a smartwatch app, or even if it would make sense for one of your customers to use one.
Benefit behind the trend: Increasing mobility
The important benefit behind the watch is ever-increasing mobility and accessibility for both you and your customers.
At the very least, your business should have a mobile-friendly website.
Also think about the business operations you would like to perform even when you’re on the go. Sync important files to a mobile device via Dropbox for mobile, or send invoices on the go with MYOB AccountRight.
Trend: Collaboration tools
Trello or Slack are two collaboration platforms that have taken the business world by storm. Trello provides a visual overview of each project, while Slack organises team messages and files. Both have received high ratings.
Comfort level: Beginner
Used faithfully, many collaboration tools can revolutionise the way your company works and increase productivity. However, success with these tools depends on buy-in from every team member involved.
Benefit behind the trend: Keeping your team updated and on task
Once implemented, many collaboration tools deliver on their promises of increased productivity. And while the needs of every business are subtly different, most collaboration apps are surprisingly flexible for various business requirements.
Also try other catch-all apps such as Evernote for organisation and Sunrise for calendar management.
Research, then commit
Do your research on the apps that can make a positive contribution to your business, whether that’s on the social presentation and marketing side or simply in adding to your overall business efficiency.
Where feasible, seek apps that offer either a free trial so you can test out their capabilities relative to your needs. This can be in the realm of more feature-complete apps to handle your business affairs, or something as simple as using a Pomodoro-based timing app to maximise the output of a given team within your business.
Once you’ve picked a technology path, make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit from its capabilities, which means getting your staff across it. Depending on the specifics of the app, this could include training sessions or making educational resources available on the company intranet.
Don’t be afraid of a learning curve because whether it’s in the practical application of new hardware, software or apps for mobile devices, there’s significant business advantage.