We all know technology is essential to a small business’s ability to thrive. But, technology these days is changing so fast, it’s hard to know how much you need to invest to keep up and get ahead. The number of cloud offerings alone can be mind boggling—and not knowing what’s out there—and what to expect in the future can be paralyzing. So instead of investing your time and money in upgrading your technology, which would make your small business more productive, your employees more efficient and better enable you to scale, you do nothing—or, worse, you listen to a friend who unwittingly gives you bad advice.
To steer you in the right direction, we talked to James Barrood, the President and CEO of the New Jersey Technology Council, a not-for-profit, trade association “focused on connecting decision-makers and thought-leaders from technology and technology support companies through access to financing opportunities, networking, and business support.”
Barrood believes, “If a business is not using tech effectively, whether it’s a one-person shop or a 100,000-person enterprise, then they will be disrupted by technology. Not only will they not be competitive, but they will decline if they are not on some level a tech company.”
And before you say that doesn’t apply to me, “I’m not a tech business,” Barrood would disagree. He says, “Going forward, we have to think of all new businesses as tech businesses.”
Do you have the technology you need to grow your small business? Barrood explains what technology you need now and what to expect in the future.
SCORE: What are the technology tools of the future entrepreneurs should know about and how will they affect small businesses?
James Barrood: Tech tools will help us stay connected through mobile devices, wearables and sensors. They are central to small business management. Mobile networks are expanding and the new display and sensing technologies have made these devices more than just a communication tool. In addition, new-age analytical tools are designed to enhance a small business’s productivity business while easing their management burdens.
SCORE: Of course it’s always difficult to predict, but what do you see coming this year that will help small businesses be more productive?
Barrood: Cloud Computing. Centrally coordinated applications will continue to grow, thanks to the marriage of cloud and mobile computing. The coordination and management of these apps will be accomplished using cloud technology. IT organizations will favor using the client device’s intelligence and storage effectively to reduce network and bandwidth costs.
SCORE: What about next year?
Barrood: Important technology issues next year will be security, the Internet of Things and analytics.
SCORE: Is there existing technology that small businesses aren’t really taken advantage of yet?
Barrood: Not enough small businesses are taking advantage of mobile devices. Only a tiny percentage of small-business owners actively employed mobile applications to help run their companies. In addition, a large minority of businesses don’t even have mobile-optimized websites.
SCORE: Why do you think small businesses sometime drag in their adoption of technology?
Barrood: Entrepreneurs invariably have no time. Plus, costs and their “I can get by” attitude, hurts the adoption of tech.
SCORE: Do you think tech adoption is generational? Do younger entrepreneurs adopt more quickly?
Barrood: Yes. Younger entrepreneurs are more skilled in the use of tech and don’t have any qualms about trying something new or innovative.
SCORE: What are the one to three technologies small businesses shouldn’t be without?
Barrood: There’s more than three: Mobile devices, planning/management software, accounting software, a business website, and collaboration/management via the cloud.