A recent article I came across on ZDNet detailed two studies undertaken by Intel and Microsoft analysing the repercussions of using ageing computer equipment in small- to medium-sized businesses. The studies looked at the repair costs and downtime associated with the use of older computer technology as well as the effects on a business’s credibility.
It is often considered expensive to replace aging equipment, especially if it appears to be doing the job. I know of a number of businesses that use quite old computer infrastructure which is known to regularly crash or require substantial maintenance. Unfortunately many business owners see replacing aging equipment as a cost, rather than an investment in their business. Not only are they ignoring the risk of losing information or possible data corruption, but there are a number of intangible factors to be considered also.
What image are your older systems presenting to team members and clients? Clients may perceive that you are not up to date and your equipment is unreliable, therefore they may consider your business service offering to be out of date and not up to scratch. We have all experienced the frustration of waiting for our purchase to be processed in store with the store person apologising while the computer reloads because there has been an issue. Added to this they mention this is the nth time today! It may seem a bit of a joke, but in the long run regular occurrences such as this will affect your business.
Your software choices also give an impression of your business. The Microsoft study found that 25% of consumers felt a business lacked credibility if they use a free email service for their business. Using software that is not industry standard can also have an impact on productivity – For example: many emails that contain links or have documents attached use Microsoft Word or Excel. If you are using old versions of these programs you may have formatting issues which may make previously well-presented documents lose their visual impact and effect, reflecting on your professionalism. Even worse is using an alternate non-mainstream word processor or spreadsheet program resulting in recipients not being able to open your files at all. You may have saved a few hundred dollars in software, but now risk being a pain to work with and losing thousands of dollars in income.
Moving away from computer solutions, there is also a need to review day-to-day processes within your business too, looking for inefficient processes that need to change or be scrapped altogether. Such processes are often legacies of older business systems and out-of-date processes, and can often be categorised into the “because how we’ve always done it” category. Team members need to be empowered to think outside the box and encouraged to ask ‘is there a better way’.
Microsoft, in their study, found some interesting expectations from client/consumers including: 61.6% wanted emailed appointment confirmations; 59.8% want real-time online chat and scheduling; and 54% want mobile friendly websites. Does your business offer any of these client/consumer expectations?
Key points to ask yourself in relation to your business systems:
- How do clients/customers perceive your business (rightly or wrongly)?
- Are you retaining and attracting good team members? (Would newer systems/equipment help with this?)
- Do you allow team members to have input into new processes and what tools they want to work with?
- Are there productivity gains to be achieved by using newer systems and processes?
- Is your IT infrastructure a ticking time bomb?
- Do you know what clients/customers want from you?