As little as two decades ago, most business still used paper forms in their dealings. The initial investments in technology were huge, but technology provided businesses unprecedented access to new markets and higher margins. As the role of technology has evolved, the outlook for integrating new technology into your business has become less rosy. Although technology is ubiquitous in the small business world, businesses today must carefully weigh the pros and cons of new technology integration.
Technological advances make mobile offices a greater possibility. Applications developed for smart phones can bring up-to-the-minute services directly to the customer or work site. For example, UPC scanners at major package shippers can let consumers know almost exactly where their packages are located. Field contractors and maintenance workers can get signatures from clients on the spot. The prevalence of broadband has also made home offices a greater fixture of the professional work sphere.
A few years ago, a business had to spend money on a flight to host a meeting between its sales staff in New York and a client in Los Angeles. Although face-to-face meetings can be vitally important, teleconferencing technologies enable people across the nation to collaborate in an instant and give businesses ways to use their travel budgets more efficiently.
Additionally, infometrics professionals have known for years how to increase efficiency by analyzing data. Before advanced technologies and the ubiquity of Internet connections, collecting and analyzing this data was expensive and time consuming. Today, infometrics professionals, because of online shopping carts and social media, have greater access to volumes of consumer data. They can easily analyze this data to identify areas for efficiency increases or targeted marketing.
When technology crosses into the realm of important social issues, government entities often step in and introduce regulations. Such is the case with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPAA, which imposes strict security requirements on any healthcare organizations with digitized patient files. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires similar digital reporting and security measures within publicly traded companies. Regulations such as these impose sudden, and often costly, expenses on the technological aspects of a business.
Businesses integrating technology as a major part of their bottom line are increasingly at risk for legislative factors such as these. Video-over-IP services -- such as Skype or Gmail chat, for example -- operate on the reality that home and business Internet connections offer a flat monthly rate. If Internet service providers ever switch to a pay-per-bit model or impose stricter bandwidth limits, then these services will lose a significant part of their appeal.
Instant access brings with it instant risk. The same Internet technology that connects clients across the globe can also stream music videos. Email systems that increase the speed of communication can also lead workers to get into an online flaming war with a former co-worker. Technology has introduced a new level of responsibility on the part of the employer to limit and control these activities. These controls often cost additional money.
Furthermore, such controls are not always optional. Organizations that work with children or that offer complimentary wireless may find themselves liable if inappropriate content is accessed. Workers who carry sensitive data on laptops or other mobile devices may need additional safeguards, such as virtual private network connections and encrypted hard drives, to avoid the fallout from lost personal data.