By Gene Marks, SMB owner and New York Times contributor
A handful of business leaders recently gathered for Xerox’s Dreaming Discussion. Participants included business owners, IT directors, marketing directors and operations managers who worked at (and owned) companies ranging in size from 30 to 250 people, all based in the Philadelphia area. The idea was to share IT challenges and come up with ways to help each other manage our companies better, especially when it comes to taking advantage of mobile, workflow and general technology trends. Through the engaging, informative session, business leaders shared many great ideas and frustrations. In the end, I walked away with three big ideas that will help businesses of all sizes. Check out the highlight video, then read my thoughts below!
1. We are very concerned about mobile security. The topic of network security was much more important among the participants than I originally expected. Most of the companies had some type of security policy when it came to their employee’s mobile devices. The majority issued devices (phones, tablets, laptops) to their employees and maintained ownership. Some used software to remotely control the devices, wiping them clean if they were to become lost or stolen. Most of the participants either had implemented a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy or are seriously considering one. Mobile security is a significant concern to businesses regardless of size and developing a proactive plan can protect your company from harmful security breaches.
2. We may not be going paperless, but the shift to digital continues. Across the board, participants have made great strides in reducing paper in their office by printing smarter, and the ones that remain paper-based are seeking solutions to integrate electronic formats. Many utilize cloud-based billing and payment systems to cut down on mailed paper invoices. Quite a few others rely heavily on online document management applications that allow e-signatures or touch screen capabilities to sign off on quotes, orders and contracts. Just about everyone participating has put a heavy emphasis on turning paper documents into digital documents and storing them in systems that allow them to save physical office space and search for critical office documents easily. And it’s actually multifunction devices (MFPs) that can fuel that conversion. A key takeaway was that modern MFPs do a lot more than SMBs realize, so education is critical.
3. Technology needs to be part of the company’s DNA. Everyone in the room continues to struggle with technology and staying up-to-date on new advancements and systems. There were questions about choosing the right device, whether to go “cloud” or stay on-premise, what applications would best suit their needs and if it’s best to consider a customized system instead of something off the shelf. From these questions and concerns, we came to one conclusion: whatever technology solution a company chooses, it will never succeed without full management buy-in and the right attitude among users. In other words, companies who are establishing a culture where technology is central to their success are the ones using it best. Adaption is needed. Change is required. Resources have to be moved around. Both time and money will need to be invested. All of these things have to happen for technology to succeed, and if that culture doesn’t exist at a company then the changes for success are greatly diminished.
All in all, the Dreaming Discussion was a very educational session that enabled small-to-medium-sized businesses to share their challenges and best practices, and learn from each other to improve their own businesses. Does your business face similar challenges to the three I’ve highlighted?
Gene Marks owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. He also writes for The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, FOX Business, and Philadelphia Magazine, and has written five books on business management, specifically geared towards small and medium sized companies.