How your SMB can avoid digital overload by strategically embracing new technologies


A common symptom of the 21st century is the reliance on a digital productivity tools…often to the point where the users become inefficient. Sound like an oxymoron? 

Recent research by Nitro shows Australians aged 18 to 25 (Gen Y) are over-reliant on email, apps, social media and cloud technology, and thus new productivity pitfalls are emerging.

The research found specifically that nearly nine in ten (87%) millennials had recently faced a digital roadblock, such as forgetting a password or losing a digital document—nearly double that of respondents over 55 years old (55%) and well above the national average (67%).

This is a concern for businesses because millennials will soon make up the majority of the Australian workforce, meaning any impact on their productivity will in turn have a large impact on the efficiency of many workplaces and ultimately, the bottom line. You’ve probably experienced it with staff or colleagues that forget a password or login details – an issue the 22% of 18 to 25 year olds admit to having.

The popularity of platforms like Slack, Yammer and Skype, means you’re likely faced with dozens of new technologies every week that claim to make teams more efficient. The plethora of options and their rate of uptake, often unsanctioned by IT, is making it increasingly difficult for SMBs to know what is and isn’t effective.

As a result, technology intended to make workers more efficient is instead often having negative consequences on business workflow. As well as reducing output, using a myriad of digital tools causes information silos and security risks. Furthermore, inconsistencies in workflows and collaboration can result in costly errors.

With vast amounts of technologies readily available, how should you approach the task of choosing what’s best suited to your business?

The modern workforce

Studies show that millennials value flexibility in the workplace, with collaboration and mobile technologies being key solutions that enable them to use the devices and applications they prefer to work from, when they want. Younger workers increasingly expect newer, innovative technologies in the workplace and these can be a key drawcard in the war on talent.

In a SMB context, where lack of internal IT resources and budget is a common consideration, you need a strategy behind the technology you decide to invest in. To be effective, new technology must be solutions-driven and help you deal with an existing problem.

Take the time to consider the pressure-points in your business so that you know what issues you need to fix. Once you have identified your objectives, you can then make a clear decision on what type of software it is that you need. Map out how the proposed solution works with your existing technology and test the technology before you deploy it more widely.

Understanding the features

When comparing two productivity tools, it’s important to look at the different features each offer you. Any well-established software vendor will offer plenty of information online, including reviews, customer case studies, and competitor comparisons. But just because one tool offers more features is not to say that it’s the best one for your business. Look for quality over quantity – if there are features that sound similar, make sure you make the most of a free demo to check how they work.

How do they integrate with the existing tools you and your customers use? Of those that are unable to open or edit documents because they have the incorrect software or app, almost a quarter are 18 to 25 year olds, higher than any other age group. This problem can be overcome by ensuring integration is at least possible and at best seamless, prior to making a final product decision. If you give your staff the right tools they will quickly stop using the less helpful, seemingly redundant ones.

Adequate and engaging training

There’s a misconception that the majority of Gen Y’s are tech savvy and therefore require little or no training on using IT tools. Even if this were true, there’s a big difference between rudimentary use of technology and utilising all of the functions on offer. That’s why equipping employees with adequate and engaging training is key to the success of a new technology in any workplace.

Do what you can within time and budget constraints to ensure employees are given adequate and engaging training which will enable them to use the technology to the best of its ability. Incorporate it into your inductions for new starters. Consider developing a handbook. Don’t underestimate the time this will take – and incorporate this into your decision. Any training also needs to be flexible according to the users age and ability, and include regular and ongoing training as new features are developed.

Setting and monitoring targets

Going back to the problem the tech is intended to solve, how will you measure its success? Are analytical capabilities available to help you measure effectiveness in quantifiable terms? Is the new platform saving you time or money? One of the big pitfalls of businesses is to implement a new technology, realise it doesn’t work, but then feel fazed by undergoing the process of finding a new platform again. Then they stick with it because it’s easier rather than because it works. By monitoring success, you can easily tell when technology isn’t working, and put a plan in place if that’s the case.

Setting and monitoring targets ultimately links back to a fundamental IT consideration – overcoming funding and budget constraints. With this in mind, don’t underestimate the potential of looking to some quick wins, using simple, innovative technology (sometimes from a start-up) that can be quickly rolled out across a team or organisation and start delivering benefits straight away.


About the author

Adam Nowiski is the APAC Director of Australian digital documents startup Nitro and is a member of the Victorian Government’s Innovation Expert Panel.