When Technology Gets in the Way

For the past few months I’ve been using a variety of wireless, blue tooth headsets, with my cell phone. The latest head set I’m using does not have clear reception. Often times I can hear the person fine, but they can’t hear me so well. I love technology, and in fact, the particular blue tooth headset I’m using is made by one of the premier brands. Read more at Small Biz IT…

Lemon Juice Email: Keeping Email Messages Secure

As a kid I used to write messages with lemon juice and when the juice dried I had a secret message (or so I thought) that was viewable when held up to the light. Of course these child hood secret messages only work in the mind of a child, but not the corporate shield of real business. For your communications between your employees, your partners or your clients you need to ensure that each email message that needs to be secure, is secure. Read more at Small Biz IT…

The ROI Series – Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment – Part 3

When an economic downturn starts to hurt, small businesses often hunker down and cut costs. But new technology solutions may be necessary for survival and growth—and they may not be as expensive as you think when you consider their return on investment (ROI). In this three-part series, we’ll review what ROI is, explain how an ROI analysis can help you save or make money, and provide guidelines for analyzing the ROI of a technology investment. Part 3: Analyzing ROI As we explained in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, today, more than ever, small businesses considering a technology investment should analyze not only the costs of that investment, but the expected ROI as well. Unfortunately, few models exist to guide you through that analysis, and with good reason: Determining ROI involves looking at many components, then applying those components to your particular situation. Doing this requires making many choices, so first, let’s look at the things one must consider—from both a cost and benefit perspective—when considering the ROI of a technology investment. Your existing technology infrastructure. There are few companies without existing technologies in place—and any new solution will need to work with these systems to be effective. There will likely be costs associated with the new technology’s impact on existing systems—but there will also be benefits. For example, a new technology might offer more efficient automation of workflow or improved information collection, storage, and access. Your b usiness processes. A new technology can clearly improve your businesses processes as described in Part 2 of this series—by reducing downtime, improving productivity, and lowering costs. But implementing the new technology will likely involve training staff in using the technology—and that can have associated costs. Your external relationships. Finally, no business is an island: Your systems may link to customer and vendor systems. As a result, any new technology may impose constraints or require changes of external organizations or individuals—in the way information is delivered or received, for example. To solve this puzzle, it can be helpful to ask three different but related questions about the technology solution’s cost , effectiveness, and efficiency . Cost: Can you afford the technology—and will it pay for itself? To answer these questions, you’ll need to know the cost of the solution itself and the monetary value of the resources used to implement it, measured in standard financial terms. You’ll then compare the dollar cost of all expenditures to the expected return (in terms of the projected savings and revenue increases). You may need to project the cost and return over a multi-month or multi-year time span in order to show a payback period. Effectiveness: How much bang for your buck will you realize? Now the analysis becomes more complex. Analyzing the effectiveness of a technology solution requires you to look at its costs in relation to how effective it is at producing the desired results—in essence, to expand your measurement of ROI beyond cost savings and revenue increases to include performance relative to your company’s goals. To do this, you’ll probably want to look at unit cost or activity cost. Efficiency: Is this the most you can get for this much investment? Finally, you’ll want to ask whether the technology will produce the greatest possible value relative to its costs. That can present difficulties, as it will require you to conduct a similar analysis on many alternatives, perhaps simulating the performance of the alternatives in some way. These three types of measurements differ in several ways. While the first is based simply on Financial metrics—i.e., cost in pure dollar terms—the other two include production output metrics, including the quality of goods or services and customer satisfaction. These production output metrics may even extend to employee morale, or in the case of some companies (such as manufacturers of “green” products or non-profits), social or political benefits. All of these measurements, however, help you answer the same basic question: whether an economic downturn is a time to reduce technology spending, or a time to examine priorities and decide which technology investments will pay off in the long-term.

How SaaS Helps Cut Small Business Costs

When you have to lay off staff, software-as-a-service can often make up the difference, especially in sales and marketing. Every business wants a hot niche, and Starr Tincup had one. In 2003, the Fort Worth marketing and advertising startup decided to cater to software makers in the human resources industry—and quickly signed 20 customers. Then the growing pains set in. By 2005, staff had ballooned to 80 from 4, plus more than 200 contractors. But revenues were just $2.5 million, and soon Starr Tincup was $500,000 in debt. SaaS made the difference in the turnaround. Read more at Business Week…

Three Tools Mobile Warriors Want Now

When you first opened your Smartphone and took it right from the fresh, “new smelling” box (or from the plastic sandwich bag from the friend you bought it used from) it was a tool for speaking, basic scheduling and contacts. However, over time, some of you have found that you could do so much more with the device as you found good software to make it a powerful productivity tool. Some software you might want to consider, to enhance the mobile warrior within you. Read more at Small Biz IT…