When evaluating IT investments focus should be given to those products and technologies that serve to increase revenue or enhance productivity. There are a lot of technologies that can do this.
To increase revenue a business simply needs more customers and more revenue from existing customers. Here are some ways to do this:
1. Create an app. iPhone, iPad, and Android users are a self selected demographic that has disposable income and is tech savvy. Convert the content in your web site, catalogs, product documentation, and white papers into applications available through Apple's and Google's app stores. Appliance and vehicle manufacturers can build customer loyalty and attract new customers with easy to access and use interactive product manuals. Distributors can make their product catalogs available in an app and allow purchases to made directly from a hand held device.
2. Go to the cloud. Look at your existing products and services and determine how they can be made more accessible and easier to maintain in the cloud.
3. Adapt your online presence to social networks. Make it easy for visitors to your web site to "like" you on Facebook, or re-post your content on Linkedin, Twitter, or dozens of other social sites.
4. Advertise on social networks. Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter have all introduced ways to target your audience. Use them.
5. Make it easier to pay for your products and services. Use third party supply chain solutions like Ariba to automate invoicing and manage accounts receivables. Use ACH to accept checks directly online.
While new revenue is good you also have to focus on the bottom line. This is where IT investments have always had the greatest impact although some would argue that that has reached a plateau. Yet, new ways of communicating and doing every day tasks are being introduced every month. Here are some ways to improve productivity or do the same tasks at lower costs.
1. Improve internal communication. Settle on a platform for company wide instant communication. Skype is becoming one of the best for this. One to one chat sessions, group meetings, voice, and video are all possible at very low cost.
2. Get social. Imagine if your employees shared ideas and had internal discussions on cost savings ideas, innovations, or process improvements, all documented and broadcast internally. Look at Yammer.com for a quick way to implement this that does not require the complexity of Microsoft Sharepoint or the expensive of Salesforce.com
3. Go wireless. Wifi everywhere will give you a guest access solution and extend the area your employees can work from.
4. Go mobile. Your executives probably already bought their own iPads. Consider issuing tablet computers to all your knowledge workers. They will instantly become work at home employees!
5. Go to the cloud. Move as much of your operations to the cloud. You will not have to maintain servers, data centers, software licenses, updates, and patches anymore.
One caveat. Security has become one of the larger areas of required investment. Yet, security is not always a cost saver or a revenue generator. Make sure that as you make IT investments you build in the cost of securing those investments so you do not have to deal with spending more after a breach or data loss.
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