All businesses have been suffering over the course of the past 18 months. Many that considered themselves to be highly digitalized still struggled to adjust to remote working and market fluctuations, while those who relied on footfall and supply chains may have been on the brink of annihilation. But with the world and the markets slowly returning to normal, this is a chance to take stock and consider where your firm is headed in 2022. This article makes the argument that you should refocus on your tech in the next few months – it will likely become the true differentiator for businesses looking to grow.
One of the things that many firms discovered in the weeks after March 2021, was that their technology was unsuited to the “new normal” of hybrid or remote working. They’d been chugging along just fine with programs and software suites that had been designed a decade or so ago, and yet when a crisis hit, everything start to fall apart. To give a couple of examples:
- Businesses that didn’t yet operate on the cloud had to set up this infrastructure fast in order to work remotely and collaboratively through a digital workplace
- Old business communication tech – like emails and fax – quickly became replaced by swifter methods, like conference calling and instant messaging
- Physical, network-based systems could no longer be relied upon, and so web-based or cloud-based software suddenly became more valuable
All of this means that your tech stack is likely to have undergone some changes in the past few months. Now is the time to take stock, given that those changes might have been rushed through without much forethought, which brings us on to security.
The rise in ransomware attacks and other business hacks has been causing alarm over the past few months. As certified cybersecurity experts scramble to respond, thought leadership pieces have been penned en masse about how remote working, cloud-based systems and slap-dash security protocols have left hundreds of thousands of businesses incredibly vulnerable to attack, data extraction and extortion. They recommend some of the following steps to protect your firm:
- Update your cybersecurity software, ensuring you’re using a package that covers your cloud-based programs and data
- Train your staff anew in the latest scams, hacks and phishing methods that they might fall foul of
- Make sure all of your staff are using secure passwords that they don’t use in their personal lives
- Ask staff who are using personal devices for work to instal cybersecurity software and to be careful with passwords and verification
It’s easy to see why the past few months have been like Christmas for cybercriminals: many new weaknesses have emerged in our collective tech infrastructure. But there are ways to counter it – revamping your security approach will ensure you’re better protected from the disruption caused by a hack.
The software comes and goes like the tide. One year a program is the business world’s hottest property; the next it’s rendered obsolete by a far more impressive set of digital services. The lesson here? You’ll need to be constantly updating and upgrading your software to stay at the cutting edge. Game-changing software is released on a monthly basis in today’s tech world, and each program holds the promise of boosting productivity in your firm. To find new and innovative tech, you can:
- Talk to business leaders about the technology they love in their business
- Read business journals that feature new software pieces
- Compare software providers on tech websites that follow the market closely
- Ask your IT team which software solutions they think your firm would benefit the most from
Engaging with powerful and cost-effective technology is one way in which you’ll outcompete your rivals in 2022. Make the effort to do just that in order to take your firm to the next level of productivity.
Here’s where things get exciting. On top of the current wave of new software solutions are those programs that use AI and machine learning to perform key business tasks autonomously. For ambitious firms, this means shedding the dead weight of surplus employees – either through redundancy or through shifting them to higher-value roles – and leaving the machines to process your data and generate value in the background. Automation software can help you:
- Manage your accounts and forecast your finances
- Distribute your payroll and ensure that every employee is paid their fair wage
- Deal with customer services enquiries, using chatbots online and automated voice receivers on the phone
- Track your sales and deliveries through logistical support automation
There’s plenty more besides these examples. Clearly, many of them are universal to most businesses – you, after all, have to manage payroll. But in most instances the really exciting automation is happening in business niches – so, do your research to find the most promising tech for your firm.
Contract Management Software
If you’re fortunate enough to be in a fast-growth business, then you’ll probably find that the number of contracts you process is increasing rapidly. This is yet another area where implementing the right technology can help. By investing in contract management software as part of your tech revamp, your legal and business teams will be able to reduce the time they spend labouring over routine contracts and streamline the entire contracting process. A strong contract management software will enable businesses to:
- Create standard contracts using templates, instead of from scratch
- Collaborate with other departments and counterparties on contracts with ease
- Set up approval workflows to ensure legal teams have approved the contract
- Search and query important contract data, like renewal dates and cost per transaction
- Store contracts securely in one unified workplace, with a variety of access settings for users
- Sign contracts electronically from anywhere in the world.
Given how much a contract management software can offer businesses, an increasing number of legal teams are departing from the manual contract workflow where contracts are created on Word and pushed back and forth via email.
Whether you employ five people or 500, you’re going to need IT support. Smaller businesses tend to bring in a consultant or professional from an agency to help them manage their tech, while larger firms are likely to have some IT professionals within their large teams. But even large firms can benefit from the advice, know-how and experience of professionals who work in managed services in IT. They’ll be able to:
- Point out where your business is operating with older software than your competitors
- Deal with pain points and areas of inefficiency that you hadn’t yet spotted in your digital back office
- Recommend software that can help solve problems in your firm you thought were insurmountable
- Maintain your digital tech, making sure you never face an outage during key moments
- Explore your current cybersecurity apparatus for weaknesses, recommending fixes for those they find
All of this and more explains why so many firms look to managed IT services providers for an extra helping hand in managing and improving their tech.
Website and Apps
Your business is sure to have a website. Many also create apps to help their customers enjoy their products and services from the comfort or their smartphones. Whether you’re operating with both of these key digital assets, or just one of them, 2022 is a chance to take a new look at your digital offerings, consider how and where to improve them. For instance, websites that are over two years old often require:
- A revamped digital design in order to stay on-trend with consumers
- The latest UX input to help you direct customers to more of your calls to action
- A better approach to SEO, which often changes in the background, leaving your website plummeting on Google’s search results
- Smarter-looking sales pages, with as few clicks as possible to get through to checkout
- Automated services, like a chatbot to help consumers who are confused or indecisive
All of these upgrades can be completed by either your in-house team or an agency team to which you turn for all matters to do with your website. Given that it’s such a prominent part of your digital offering, often the gateway to your business and your products, this is an area that you cannot afford to leave stale and unchanged for longer than a couple of years.
All of the above tips are designed to help you plan a digital revamp for your business in the coming months, riding the wave of tech innovation and market changes to achieve a more competitive position in your niche.