Here is a simple question for every executive and business owner: What is your definition of technology, as a subject, and as a practical resource involving the way you run your company? The answer to that query reveals a wealth of information, from the way a business operates and manages the flow of information to how an organization collects and analyzes data, as well as the investment priorities a company sets for itself.
My answer to the same question, which can benefit executives in all manner of industries, is straightforward and frank: Technology must never be an abstract, complex and expensive idea – the province of a handful of experts – because this subject is too important and too valuable to be purely academic.
Technology must enlighten, unite and reveal, period. Those three things are direct, concrete and measurable. To that end, they must allow executives to see, in real-time, where and when employees make deliveries, meet with clients, and receive and transport goods and services.
This proverbial “last mile” is, in fact, a route of many miles: For, technology must, again, enlighten (explaining how efficient or productive a strategy is), unite (creating a focused mission for everyone to fulfill) and reveal (showing how many employees are necessary for the day-to-day completion of specific tasks).
That brand of technology is neither costly nor difficult to activate; it is as simple as – it already exists as an application for – the smartphones and tablets workers use constantly. I issue this statement from my own professional experience, where I serve as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for DigitalDispatcher.com, an innovative developer of solutions for the fuel delivery and HVAC service industry. More to the point, as this is where the larger discussion about technology should begin, DigitalDispatcher.com shows the routes, times and numbers of deliveries, and the variables (such as accidents, vehicle breakdowns and traffic) responsible for any redundancies or inefficiencies.
Technology in the Service of Operations
This emphasis on technology in the service of operations and savings is the most quantifiable way – during and after a single workday – to calculate savings, because a manager can see and then measure whether he needs six drivers instead of ten, or five trucks or vans instead of seven. That savings can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars, because a company no long needs to insure, fuel and maintain a fleet of vehicles. Nor does that company have to pay at least $100,000 in salary, benefits, disability fees, workers' compensation, and health insurance and pension contributions.
Now, let us broaden this principle as a metaphor for how businesses perceive and use technology as a communications resource.
Do Not Isolate or Sequester the People Running Your Technology
If the above example teaches us anything, and it educates us about several things, there is a reminder about the value of technology. Which is to say, a company must never treat technology as an afterthought to its core business, as hardware to be stored in a makeshift data center or assigned (so as to be forgotten) to junior IT personnel. That approach, which is, sadly, too common among a diverse array of business owners defeats the very purpose of technology.
Let us, therefore, remind – and repeat, and repeat once more – what technology is not. It is not a collection of servers, multicolored wires, cables, monitors and printers — mere accessories to a company's principal mission, which may range from selling clothing or food to manufacturing industrial equipment or servicing coolant systems. Technology is a practical application; it shows and tells, providing executives with the relevant figures necessary to make the right decisions.
But for technology, how can a business owner know which employees are the most productive or which delivery routes are the most lucrative, or which purchases are superfluous or outdated? Without technology, how can a company communicate internally and broadcast a message externally, to its consumers, of unity and purpose? And finally, how can an organization simplify invoicing, accelerate payments and boost morale without technology?
Embrace and Educate Your Workforce
Asking these questions is both a fiduciary duty – no executive should forsake significant savings – and a sign of smart leadership. The way to make the answers rewarding starts by embracing technology, in word and deed, complemented by educating employees about the benefits of the software or applications, which make them more productive and eligible for increases in pay.
So, yes, technology is an ally and an asset. Business owners should embrace this fact, as it will guide them towards greater results, more intelligence and much deserved peace of mind. Technology is, indeed, a company's most important friend.
Bill Stomp is Vice President and Senior Consultant for DigitalDispatcher.com, a mobile field management software solution for various product delivery industries.