Tech overload? How to navigate the world of digital communication

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How many posts, articles and videos have you seen this week that all begin with a promise to transform your business with the latest technology? As digital communication becomes ever more sophisticated, with the latest cloud applications, cutting edge hardware and even artificial intelligence all vying to be the next ‘big thing’, the amount of time needed to just read up on all this tech becomes a barrier in itself, a distraction from the process of actually running and growing a small business. In fact, 43% of those considering new innovation cite lack of time as a key barrier to achieving this goal.

This isn’t to say however that small businesses aren’t open to new technology. According to the FSB’s Spotlight on Innovation report, 76% of them have introduced a new innovation in the past three years, an indication that there is both the desire and the capability to embrace digital transformation, providing there is a clear rationale for doing so. In short, small business owners and start-ups need structured, practical information that empowers their decision making and enables them to invest in digital communication tools and technology that will make a discernible difference to the success of their business.

Greater than the Sum of its Parts - Digital Communication & Enhanced Productivity

Developing digital communication isn’t just about customer experience however. It’s no secret that the success and productivity of a small business is deeply reliant on employee experience and, as evidenced by the fact that 77% of millennials would accept or decline a position based on the level of technology available, digital innovation is only going to become a more decisive factor in this matrix. Fortunately, some of the best new tools and technology available to small businesses are those that improve how you and your team share ideas, collaborate on important projects and optimise the structure of the business itself.

The first steps to better collaboration can often be as simple as investing in tools and software that enhance the way you and your colleagues already work. If you spend lots of the working day in strategy sessions and meetings about key projects, cloud based applications like Slack and Office 365 can help you streamline your planning process, collaborate on documents in real time and best of all; ensure that every update is instantly shared with the right people. Digital tools like this don’t represent a large or disruptive investment in new technology, but their ability to free teams from the constraints of the physical office, by letting them communicate and collaborate from home or on the go, can have a massive impact on productivity. 

Some businesses are even beginning to look at integrating AI and augmented reality as part of their digital transformation journey, exploring ways of creating a more immersive and productive employee experience from the moment they join the company. This can include everything from learning key elements of a role through augmented reality training to helping users find documents, groups and projects faster through smart search functionality in the company intranet. What’s even more exciting for small businesses without lots of capital to invest in new technology is that AI can even be found in free collaboration and productivity tools. For example, Google Drive uses AI to help you find your most opened files faster and automatically suggests who you should share them with, making starting new projects just that little bit simpler and more efficient each time.

It often feels like investing in new technology is the preserve of corporate giants and Silicon Valley tech firms who have the budget to spare and whole teams dedicated to implementing it. In fact, digital communication tools have never been more accessible to small businesses and start-ups; it’s simply a case of working out what needs improving and which application, tool or piece of software is going to be best placed to help you do just that. It can be as straightforward as using Facebook or Whatsapp to create a more dynamic relationship with your customers, or investing in Office 365 to help increase the productivity of employees who work remotely. Fundamentally, investing in digital communication isn’t a goal in itself, but a process where the end goal is happier customers, a more productive workforce and most importantly, a better business.