NZ SMBs getting caught up in tech tool hype
Small businesses across New Zealand are battling with how to use technology for gains that make a significant impact – the average SMB will use eight different cloud applications despite no noticeable improvement in profit or productivity, according to OneHQ chief technology officer Warren Hughes.
He believes that New Zealanders are “easily seduced” out of their technology dollars, often spending them on cloud solutions and surrendering control of critical data to offshore multinationals.
"Big budget marketing hypes up many cloud applications like Trello, Slack, HubSpot and Basecamp. On the face of it, they seem cheap. What nobody is telling you, is that to get value out of these tools – and they can be useful – requires a significant investment in time and training.
"At the same time, your critical data – such as financial information and your client details – are locked in these applications, which do not talk to each other. Not only do you not own your data, there's not much you can do with it outside of those apps.
While artificial intelligence (AI) could be viewed as the next thing, Hughes says SMBs should wait until the technology becomes part of software they already use.
"If you are a small to medium businesses owner, focus on the outcome first and avoid the distraction of technology, it's not a silver bullet. Technology is a means to an end. Software solutions like Xero, for example, will take care of the AI functionality for you.
“I expect business leaders will soon be able to verbally ask questions of the software and get back accurate financial answers in plain English. However, it is the function of the software, not an end in itself.
He realises that business leaders set goals and they need many tools to reach those goals.
“Fix your objectives and then select a simple, best of breed set of tools that talk to each other and which allow you to retain control of your data.
Hughes offers the following tips:
1. Take back your time
Business owners are so busy that they rarely have the time to focus on the business itself, never mind growth or evolving technology.
"Most business owners don't have the time, energy or brain space to objectively look at business and build a plan around the company. Consolidate suppliers, consolidate the technology and make them work together as a team – you should not be the glue that has to hold everything together.
"Get professional advice and help from providers who are outcomes focussed, instead of looking to cheap technology solutions to save a dollar. They cost you more in the long run."
2. Get goals
Business owners have, by necessity, a short attention span because they have so many verticals to be across.
"In New Zealand, we are exposed to a lot of marketing associated with technology for businesses, most of which way over promises and way under-delivers and then moves on to the next thing before you can even do something about the first thing.
"Set your goals. Know where you are going. Have a plan, and then get the help and the tools you need to get there."
3. Keep your 'context' consistent
Research shows that shifting context (multi-tasking or moving from one task to the next to the next) is exhausting and the most damaging to long term plans and objectives.
"When a business owner is dealing with, for example, finance one day, health and safety the next day and getting quotes out the day after that, they get stuck in this vicious cycle that never ends,” says Hughes.
"Prioritise your most important task, for example, sales, and hire staff or engage suppliers to do the other urgent-day-to-day tasks like writing your health and safety manuals, looking after your financials and implementing technology solutions."
Most businesses have an incredible library of apps to operate, but those don't necessarily make them more effective. Businesses need a solution that glues the best of breed apps together and lets them keep control of the data.
"For example, you could – if you wanted – replace Xero with MYOB seamlessly (or vice versa). A bunch of different apps working independently don't let you do that,” Hughes concludes.