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How to use technology to gain a competitive advantage

In today’s global and increasingly digital economy, investing in technology can provide small to medium-sized businesses with the competitive advantage they so seriously need.

Chances are, you would have heard about cloud computing – where a business accesses software and/or infrastructure via the internet. It’s not just a buzz word, cloud computing has enabled smaller businesses to have access to the same enterprise-class data systems as larger corporations. Because your data is automatically backed up in the cloud on one or more servers located outside your office, using the cloud often reduces the cost of, or increases the flexibility of the cost of, your IT software and services. It can also reduce the number of IT issues you have to deal with personally and enable you to work on your data from whatever locations you want, and more.

There’s never been a better time for business operators to embrace cloud solutions. A modern business is increasingly likely to have workers who are always on the road or working from home, and customers and suppliers who might be anywhere in the world.

Utilising the cloud is all about increasing the productivity of your business. Recent KPMG research states that if cloud services were adopted across 75 percent of relevant ICT spending by Australian businesses it would increase our long-run GDP by $3.32 billion per annum after 10 years*.

Having a business website can give you a huge advantage over your competitors. It can help expand your customer base, identify new revenue streams as well as increase your visibility and credibility in the market. MYOB’s recent research has found nearly two thirds (64 percent) of Australian SMEs don’t have their own website. It also found their online peers are experiencing more impressive financial and operational results. The Getting Aussie Business Online program has seen more than 34,000 businesses create a free website to help build awareness of their business and, in some cases, to manage sales. Building an online presence is much easier than you think – you don’t need to pay someone to get a business website running.

The surge in e-commerce and online retail has seen more consumers shopping online from the comfort of their lounge because payments and money transfers can be made through the internet with any online retailer in the world. Traditional Australian retailers such as Big W and Harvey Norman are extending their presence online in order to compete with online retailers experiencing significant boosts in sales. This is something SMEs should also be seriously considering. Simple e-commerce options for your website are available, you just need to do a little research.

Now is a great time to review and assess your technology needs for the end of financial year. There are a number of tax breaks available for purchasing assets for business. Check out the ATO website to find what your business qualifies for and when. For example, the small business instant asset write-off increases from $1,000 to $6,500 from 1 July 2012. This increase will help you invest in the best technology for your business.

Consider incorporating a ‘bring your own device’ policy for your business – whereby employees bring their own computing device to work for use and connectivity on the corporate network. BYOD has had a positive impact on business. Some of the benefits driving this trend include a greater ability to attract and retain talent thanks to greater flexibility of work location and tools, and reduced IT costs for the businesses when employees can use their personal device for work.  According to Techi.com, 50 percent of IT managers have seen an increase in employee productivity due to BYOD and companies who allow their employees to connect have, on average, a higher employee satisfaction rate.

Drive your business forward

Businesses need technology to better understand, segment and communicate to their customers, reach new customers, streamline operations and explore new opportunities. If your business has grown, it’s likely that your IT has probably grown along with it.

With this in mind, up-to-date equipment goes hand-in-hand with quality employees. Continuing to use older technology holds your business back by not bringing in the latest capabilities to increase productivity and lower costs. It could also frustrate the more tech-savvy staff members who know they are being held back.

The typical lifespan of a computer, whether it is a laptop or desktop, is 3-5 years with normal usage.  It’s also worth checking your hardware versus software compatibility after the 3-5 year mark as your equipment may be too outdated to meet the system requirements for the latest business solutions software.

It is vital that you continue to upgrade your technology capabilities to keep up with rivals both here and overseas, and make the most of new market opportunities

 

Angely Grecia

Angely Grecia

Angely Grecia is MYOB's public relations editor. At MYOB she carries out editorial content-creation, media relations and assists the PR team on implementing strategic PR programs.

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