How technology helps business growth

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I honestly couldn’t imagine doing my job without technology – without a computer? No way. And yet, it’s worth looking at how technology helps business growth. Some people even challenge how much tech do they need?

There are five areas from my perspective where technology helps businesses:

I also discussed this on Episode 659 of “The Business Storytelling Show,” so in case you prefer listening over reading here’s that episode.

Enhancing productivity with tech

One of the most significant benefits of technology is its ability to supercharge productivity. Previously lengthy tasks now take a fraction of the time, thanks to powerful software tools and automation.

For example, content creation used to be a slow, laborious process involving typewriters, paper, and a lot of manual editing. But now, with word processors, grammar checkers, and AI-powered writing assistants, it’s possible to draft, refine, and publish high-quality content much faster. What used to take a week might now take a day.

Read next: The Pros and Cons of Human vs. AI Writing

The key is to choose productivity-enhancing tools that integrate well together, rather than cobbling together a patchwork of disconnected software. Using one central platform for related tasks, such as HubSpot for marketing or Salesforce for sales, can prevent information silos and keep everyone on the same page. When tools work seamlessly together, one plus one equals three in terms of productivity gains.

Of course, there is a risk of going overboard with technology and actually hurting productivity. If employees are constantly context-switching between different software, or getting bogged down in overly complex workflows, it can slow things down. The goal should be to enhance and enable human effort, not overburden people with complicated tech. Keeping it simple and integrated is the way to go.

Streamlining communication

Another way technology fuels business growth is by streamlining communication, both internally among staff and externally with customers and partners. Thanks to email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaborative work-management platforms, it’s never been easier to connect and share information.

The trick is to choose the right communication methods for the situation. Email works well for external correspondence or formal internal messages, but it can quickly get overwhelming and important items get lost. Instant messaging apps like Slack are ideal for informal real-time discussions and keeping conversations organized by topic. Video calls are best for building relationships, brainstorming, and any time facial cues and body language are important.

Project management software like Trello, Asana, or Basecamp help keep initiatives on track and everyone aligned around priorities and deliverables. They provide a centralized view of who is doing what by when. Everyone – including new employees – can get quickly up to speed.

The danger is having too many disconnected communication channels, leading to information overload and important messages falling through the cracks. It’s critical to choose a suite of tools that play well together, and establish clear norms around which channels to use in which situations. Staff need to actually check the tools regularly for them to be effective. When communication is streamlined and expectations are clear, collaboration and coordination become much easier, driving growth.

Read next: 10 Tips for Leading Remote Teams to Success

Data-driven decision making

Technology also empowers companies to be more data-driven in their decision making. With website analytics, CRM platforms, marketing automation, and business intelligence tools, organizations can track, measure and analyze every aspect of their operations. Leaders can keep a pulse on the health of the business and quickly spot opportunities or issues.

For example, website analytics shed light on how visitors are finding the site, what pages they view, how long they stay, and what actions they take. This can inform content strategy, user experience design, and digital marketing campaign optimization. CRM data shows the status of every deal in the pipeline, helping sales leaders forecast revenue and identify at-risk accounts. Marketing automation tracks the performance of email campaigns, webinar signups, and lead generation efforts.

The key is knowing what metrics to focus on, and how to interpret and act on the data. Vanity metrics like raw page views or social media follower counts may not be as important as engagement, conversion rates, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value. It’s also important to look at trends over time, not just a single snapshot.

Having a data-driven culture means more than just collecting data – it means actually using it to inform decisions and holding people accountable for results. This requires analysts who can wrangle the data, tools to democratize insights, and training to ensure data literacy across the organization. When everyone has access to actionable data and knows how to use it, the company can become more agile in responding to shifting market dynamics.

There is a risk of analysis paralysis or chasing meaningless metrics if the organization isn’t intentional about what data is important and focusing efforts there. The goal is to balance intuition and experience with data to make better, faster decisions.

Read next: Content performance analysis: Measure content performance to know what’s working

Operational cost reduction

Certain technology helps companies operate more efficiently and that saves time and money. What used to require a full-time staff member might now be accomplished with software, enabling the company to reallocate headcount to growth areas.

For example, accounting software automates invoicing, bookkeeping, and financial reporting. Chatbots handle routine customer service inquiries, freeing up agents to handle more complex issues. AI-powered tools can review contracts, resumes, or insurance claims much faster and more consistently than humans. Robotic process automation can take over tedious data entry and transfer tasks.

The key is to prioritize high-volume, low-complexity processes that follow consistent rules and don’t require much human judgment. Start by documenting the current process, then identify steps that could be automated with existing tools. Calculate the potential time and cost savings, then run a pilot and measure results before scaling up.

Automation does require an up-front investment in software and possibly integrations between systems. The tools also need ongoing oversight and maintenance. Costs can add up quickly, especially with per-user pricing, so it’s important to keep an eye on utilization, adoption, and the total cost of ownership for the tech stack. Tools that aren’t being used should be sunset to save money. When applied to the right use cases, the efficiency gains can more than offset the technology expense.

There is a risk of automating a bad process and amplifying errors or inefficiencies at scale. It’s important to streamline and optimize the process first, then apply technology as an enabler. Over-automating and removing the human touch entirely can also lead to blind spots and customer frustration. The goal should be to automate the right pieces of the process, not the entire thing.

The other consideration is the impact on employees. Automation can be scary for workers worried about being replaced by robots. It’s important to emphasize that automation is meant to assist employees and enable them to focus on higher-value work, not replace them outright. Involving frontline staff in identifying opportunities and designing automated processes can help them feel invested rather than threatened.

Innovative marketing strategies

Finally, technology allows businesses to get more creative and effective with their marketing efforts. With so many digital touchpoints and tools available today, companies can engage customers in new and innovative ways at every stage of the buyer journey. From personalized advertising to immersive virtual product demos, technology offers endless possibilities.

For example, programmatic ad platforms allow marketers to precisely target high-value audiences across the web based on demographics, interests, and past behavior. Chatbots can engage website visitors with interactive product finders or customer service. Virtual and augmented reality enable immersive 360-degree product tours or “try before you buy” experiences.

Social media lets brands connect with customers, build community, and showcase their personality. Influencer marketing leverages the power of trusted creators to shape brand perception and drive action. User-generated content turns customers into advocates, with the authenticity and credibility that audiences crave.

Exploring creative use cases for existing technology can set brands apart without breaking the bank. For example, Ikea’s Place app lets users see how furniture would look in their space using smartphone augmented reality. Domino’s AnyWare lets customers order pizza via smart home devices, smartwatches, cars, or even emojis on Twitter.

The key is to focus on creating value for the customer and moving them toward the next conversion point that matters to them. Marketing should enhance the customer experience, not interrupt or annoy. Promotions should be relevant, timely, and helpful. With so many touchpoints and signals available today, there is no excuse for generic mass messages.

Of course, just because a shiny new technology exists doesn’t mean every company needs to use it. Trendy tactics can backfire if they aren’t aligned with the brand identity or audience expectations. There is a risk of coming across as gimmicky or inauthentic. New marketing technologies also need to integrate with the overall marketing strategy and tech stack for maximum impact.

To stay on the cutting edge, marketers should carve out a portion of their budget to test new strategies, learn fast, and scale what works. A center of excellence can help evangelize winning ideas across the organization and provide training and best practices. Over time, the company’s marketing will become more effective, efficient, and innovative, driving business growth.

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Start small to finish big

Technology offers immense potential to enhance productivity, streamline communication, enable data-driven decisions, reduce costs, and power innovative marketing. But realizing this potential requires more than just buying a bunch of software. It requires the intentional selection of tools that integrate well, re-engineering processes to capitalize on automation, and providing ample training so employees can confidently use the systems.

Companies should focus on introducing technology in phases, starting with the highest-impact, lowest-risk opportunities. Trying to change too much too fast can lead to costly failures and employee frustration. It’s better to get a few quick wins, gain momentum and buy-in, and then expand from there.

Don’t be afraid to sunset tools that are no longer providing value. Just because something was useful in the past doesn’t mean it is still worth the cost today. Continually evaluate the tech stack based on utilization, performance, and cost to optimize it over time. Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy keep sinking your budget.

Remember, technology is a tool to enhance human capabilities, not replace people altogether. The goal is to automate tasks, not jobs. Employees should see technology as something that makes their lives easier and enables them to accomplish more, not something that threatens their livelihood.

The most successful companies will be those that view technology as a strategic enabler of their growth objectives and core to their DNA, not just a collection of newfangled toys. They will align people, processes, and technology to work better together in service of clear business goals. And they will do it all in a way that makes life better for employees, customers, and their communities. That is the true power and potential of technology in driving business growth.

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