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6.2 Technology Analysis Questionnaire

Why is technology so important to a small business like Lights On Electrical, Inc.?

In today's day and age there is nothing you can do without the use of technology. Even in industries like arts, entertainment and education which require a ton of manual human effort, you will find that technology has been changing the very way business is being done. Thus if you are musician and you do not adopt the changing technologies of your industry, you stand to lose out competitively and may never be able to get your music out to the market. From the recording studio to the production of the media all the way out to the marketing and sales of music - technology has revolutionized the way a small and upcoming artist can record and distribute his or her work.

In the world of education, the internet and technologies of the internet have made it possible for a tutor in India to teach their pupils half way across th world in the United States. It is now possible for children in small African villages to be able to partake in a classroom being conducted in Canada. All these and many more are examples of Technology and its impact on all busineses - large and small. Thus to ignore technology is tantamount to embracing failure. It is imperative that every business owner understand the various technological innovations that affect your industry and take advantage of them.

What is a good place to start when it comes to technology for a small firm for Lights On Electrical, Inc.?

No matter how small your business or start up is, we recommend that all our small business clients have at least one computer dedicated solely to their business needs. That is the basic unit to get you connected to the world - we also recommend that you have external back up drives as well as remote backup services for all your data. From there on you can begin to build your technological footprint.

There are usually are two large components to technology - hardware and software. Hardware of course is the computers, peripheral devices, connections and networking equipment that allow you to conduct your work. Software on the other hand comprises of the operating system like Windows and Linux, productivity software like Microsoft office and adobe acrobat, customer relationship management (CRM) software and industry specific software. Restaurants for example have their own point of sale (POS) software written and designed for them. Medical offices like Chiropractors and Dentists have software solutions that developers and providers have put together for them.

How should a small business like Lights On Electrical, Inc. evaluate hardware?

When looking into Hardware solutions for a small business like Lights On Electrical, Inc. there is invariably an inverse relationship between price and quality. That is not to say that you won't get good quality hardware at a decent price, but generally speaking, if you pay for higher quality hardware equipment you will probably get higher quality hardware.

Warranty: Make sure you check the warranty on your product. We always recommend that our small business clients like Andy Powell get three year warranties with all the hardware where possible. Most vendors of computer hardware now also give you the ability to have next day replacement and we recommend that this option is worth the extra money and you should pay for it every time you can. The most important thing for a business, especially a startup, is workflow continuity - interruptions in the flow of work especially if you have limited hardware equipment can cause very significant loss of business and productivity.

Compatibility: This is yet another key consideration - if you have hardware that is outdated and is not able to keep up with the advances of new software in terms of performance - it may be time for a change. We recommend that instead of spending top dollar on the best hardware you can buy, you should consider spending money on good quality hardware that you can replace every three years irrespective of performance. What we recommend to our clients is that even if things are working fine, they should replace their hardware every three years to keep up productivity.

What about Software - how can a small business owner like Andy Powell pick the ones he needs?

Often times the choice of software is made for you by your clients. A classic example of this is if you are a business consultant and you love to use the Macintosh platform but all your clients are using the windows platform - guess what? - you are going to have to use the windows based computer hardware and software.

Software evaluation should be done considering the use of software amongst your clients, industry norms and productivity - just how much more less productive will you be with or without the software, and finally cost - can you afford it. The great news is that there are tons of choices now available to the small business community and many times providers of hardware will install and support special software for your business.

For example if you are an automotive repair shop - you can always buy hardware and software with support from one vendor and that software will run your entire business and give you information on how to repair every car that comes into your shop. Similar software exists for the restaurant, medical and many other businesses.

Can technology give a small business like Lights On Electrical, Inc. a competitive edge?

Yes it can. Consider the following - you are a chiropractor who has the latest technology that lets you fill in information about your clients visit on a hand held device and that is then automatically downloaded onto your server. Within a few seconds you are able to point on your hand held device and finish up the daily visit chart for the patient you just treated. Within twenty minutes you will probably have completed all the charts for your daily visits.

Your competitor on the other hand refuses to adopt this technology and instead has to manually have the office pull the charts for each patient visit and manually fill in each chart - how much more time do you think it would take you and your office to update all the charts. This extra time translates directly into higher office costs as well as longer hours. That means that your competitor will be able to see fewer patients in the same amount of time and you will therefore be able to edge them out by gaining a larger market share of a local target market like Cuyahoga, Ohio.

Quick Links:

  1. Go to the Corresponding Business Plan section for this industry.

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