Author Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company operates a curated end-to-end marketplace for high-quality in-person and online tutors, mobile learning apps, online learning environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.
Archie, the world's first search engine, debuted in 1990 and since that moment, technology has evolved rapidly. We now benefit from the use of smartphones, tablets, cloud computing and file sharing services, as well as a number of other tools.
But with this innovation comes the challenge of remaining current and appropriately adapting our workplace practices to the latest technology. You might be asking, "What's next?" You might also be wondering whether it is wise to invest in technological advancements now when next year's products may be faster, more cost effective or otherwise better-suited to your company's needs. After all, technology is expensive - a single computer with the relevant software can cost more than $1,000, while the bill for just one smartphone can be more than $50 a month.
However, if you are not advancing your use of technology, you are risking falling behind your competition, which can result in a loss of revenue and profit. Your customers expect convenience, efficiency and speed, and technology can provide these aspects when implemented correctly. Your technological expenses should help you frame your decision about what to invest in, rather than prevent you from investing at all.
For instance, Varsity Tutors leverages technology to facilitate connecting students to tutors in 45+ cities across the country, including platforms like Gmail and Google Drive. Investing in cloud-based services like Constant Contact, Dropbox and RightSignature has enabled us to efficiently share information with our team members and to increase the velocity of our business operations.
Ultimately, there are numerous online solutions that can help you streamline your company's internal and external operations. The accessibility of these services - and the convenience they offer - results in time savings and cost savings for businesses.
As you move forward with implementing the latest technology, consider keeping these four steps in mind:
Avoid impulse purchases. Buying the slickest software can be tempting, but it is not always the wisest of decisions. Even if your competitor has a wonderful new platform, you should only invest in it if it aligns with your core strategy. Will your team members or consumers use it on a day-to-day basis?
Take Walt Disney World Resort - in 2011, the company began to reimagine the consumer's experience by developing MyMagic+ wristbands, which could be used at the parks for everything from accessing rides to unlocking a hotel room door. The organization soon realized that devoting all its resources to creating new technology was less promising than leveraging existing tools like smartphones. Rather than develop tablets for its theme park employees, Walt Disney World Resort recognized that technologies like the iPad were already much more intuitive to use and more cost-effective.
Consider your long- and short-term needs. Whether you are developing in-house technology or buying it off the shelf, consider both scalability and flexibility. Will the technology's functionality suffer if your clientele increases tenfold? What if your staff size doubles? Technology should make your business more responsive, not tie it to software that is only applicable in certain situations.
Suppose that your company is deciding between tablets: you might first review the apps that each supports. Then you might weigh screen size, battery life, usability and security features to narrow your options. If a specific tablet is not fully functional given your immediate and future needs, then it is not a smart use of funds.
Move quickly. The sooner that you implement technology that aligns with your business strategy, the sooner you will reap its benefits. Given the frenzied pace of technological advancement, the gap only widens between you and your competition if your team is using version 1.0 software while your competitors use version 4.0.
For instance, Kodak's failure to invest in digital imaging technology is infamous. Rather than willingly evolving, the company clung to film. As a result, it stumbled into the digital marketplace long after everyone else. Even with its significant brand recognition, Kodak could not regain its footing, and it stopped producing digital cameras in 2012.
Focus on integration. When effectively employed, technology can produce a multiplier effect: it can help you compete with businesses twice your size, even if they have twice the resources. The key lies in focusing on your technology's integration in order to produce results.
For example, in the startup world, it is almost unheard of to launch with more than 10 employees, including founders. But by implementing the right technology, startups create infrastructures that serve thousands of consumers. No matter your company's age or size, the opportunity for you to do the same exists.
Staying current with technology will always be an ongoing process, but this challenge becomes far greater when you wait to invest in cutting-edge solutions. By moving forward diligently and swiftly, you can take advantage of technology before your competitors and reap the rewards that follow.