As much as the way staff dress, the décor in an office building and the existence of a coffee machine or not can reflect the culture of a business, so too can the technology it uses. Yet many businesses I come across haven’t made this connection – and are unlikely to: stuck in the thought of technology being a back-of-house necessity. In 2013, however, technology is at the forefront of almost everything we do.
Small and medium businesses that fail to invest in new, modern technology will struggle to attract talented staff and keep customers. Guys and girls graduating from university and eagerly entering the workforce have not been without smartphone in hand for their entire adult life, perhaps even most of their late teens. Email on a phone to this generation is a given. Transacting online a daily occurrence. Accessing information on demand from anywhere, anytime is their expectation. They hear “cloud” and think of online services first, weather second. Technology plays a big part in their life, perhaps even goes some way to defining who they are. It makes sense it’s high on the list of things considered when scouting for employers. So working in a business where pre-smartphone generation technology is still prolific – technology born in the era of dial-up modems, portable CD players & John Howard – is a daunting proposition not to mention an unattractive one.
Small and medium businesses that fail to invest in new, modern technology will struggle to attract talented staff and keep customers
Current estimates place up to 30% of Australian small and medium businesses on technology platforms over a decade old. Such businesses are unwittingly projecting themselves as pre-historic to those they want to attract to their business. Take a recent tweet which came across my feed a few days ago: “wtf. This job application asks how well I know how to use Windows XP…”. I asked the author of the tweet, a mid-twenty something graduate of business and international trade, how he would feel working at a company serving up 10+ year old technology as his daily tool. His response was “I’m not sure I CAN work for a company 10 years behind”. No doubt the business in question didn’t intend for this reference to old technology to be a feature focussed on in their employment advertisement, but to the next generation of workers it’s as important as the bullet pointed responsibilities and the paragraph proclaiming it’s a great fun workplace.
The news for these tech-laggard businesses only gets worse. Of course the same next generation of workers are also the next generation of consumers. They travel, have cool and expensive outdoor hobbies, are getting engaged and married, buying houses, having children – all requiring goods and services from small businesses. Many of these consumers will also become young entrepreneurial business owners – running truly “modern” small businesses – seeking B2B services. CCH Australia Ltd recently conducted a survey of 1000 small and medium business owners from which the results illustrate this is already top of mind for young business owners. Half of the respondents indicated they would consider replacing their accountant – traditionally one of the most trusted advisors to a small business – if he/she didn’t move to a modern technology platform. More importantly, in the context of my thinking, when drilling in to the 18-34 year old age bracket the proportion was close to three quarters!
Three out of four young business owners are willing to abandon what’s traditionally been the most trusted business advisor simply because of old technology! For me that’s evidence of a fundamental shift in the importance of technology as a measure of a company’s culture, what it stands for and where it’s going.
Small & medium businesses with modern technology enabling the expected modern experience for next generation employees, consumers and business owners can expect to win. Those slow and inept in the technology stakes could risk going the way of the Betamax cassette – a little bit daggy, unpopular and eventually totally incompatible.