Being able to overcome challenges is one of the keys to success in business. Technology challenges are no exception. Efficiently dealing with technical problems that affect employees and customers can help set a business apart from its competition.
How do different technologies help businesses? What are some of the business problems that arise from technology resources? How can you tackle technology challenges for small businesses to ensure a successful digital transformation and integration with the future of technology?
To assist your business prepare for “technology 2021 challenges,” here’s an outline of some of the ways tech helps businesses and some of the biggest technology challenges for small businesses:
How Technology Helps Businesses
There are many ways technology in businesses can help organizations achieve success. One only needs to look at the proliferation of companies like Netflix, Amazon, and the countless manufacturers who have leveraged manufacturing automation to find examples of how useful different technologies can be.
Some examples of how digital transformations help businesses every day include:
- Cloud-Based Collaboration Apps. Communication tools such as Zoom and Slack, as well as online document sharing solutions like Google Docs and Microsoft Teams, allow people to work together easily on important documents and projects despite being miles apart.
- Inventory Management Solutions. Automated inventory tracking software helps businesses closely monitor their stock of important products or resources so they can maintain “just-in-time” supply chains that minimize costs without undue risk of running out of inventory.
- Customer-Facing Business Apps. From digital storefronts to automated customer service solutions and other resources, customer-facing business applications—and particularly mobile applications—have helped businesses improve the way they interact with their customers to increase sales and customer retention.
- Data Storage and Retrieval. One of the biggest ways today's technology helps businesses is in how modern companies can store and retrieve massive amounts of information at nearly any time from almost anywhere. Digital data storage has simplified the retrieval and transmission of important documents, reducing common data management tasks to mere seconds when they may have taken significantly longer using purely analog media.
- Project Software. Project management software helps businesses track common project tasks and keep their project teams on track. With solutions such as Jira or Teamwork, project managers can assign out specific tasks and monitor whether employees are on track to finish the project on time.
These are just a small handful of the ways that developing tech has helped organizations of all sizes and industries. However, there are many challenges that using technology in businesses can bring as well.
15 Technology Challenges Businesses Face
IT professionals are often all too aware of the computer problems, technical issues, and software training difficulties that businesses face. While some problems are perennial—cropping up every year—others rise and fall with the introduction of new technologies and solutions.
What are the biggest challenges of technology in 2021 that companies face?
1: Information Security
Information security is a major issue for any business. Protecting sensitive intellectual property (IP) data, financial documents, and customer information is vital for keeping the business healthy and competitive.
According to data from IBM, the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $8.64 million—making the U.S. the most expensive country for data breaches.
The issue is that cybersecurity can be an incredibly difficult issue to deal with. Why? Because:
- Different businesses have different information security requirements they need to follow;
- Malicious actors are constantly creating new cyber threats and attack strategies; and
- Qualified IT professionals specializing in cybersecurity are both costly and difficult to find.
This is why many businesses, particularly smaller ones with fewer resources, often choose to hire outsourced cybersecurity firms.
2: Digital Transformation
Digital transformation, or the integration of technology into virtually every aspect of a business, isn’t often a goal for businesses per se. Instead, the proliferation of technology in business operations often leads to an incidental kind of digital transformation—one with a haphazard nature that leads to an inconsistent experience for users of the organization’s applications.
Taking a more mindful approach to digital transformation that considers how each piece of technology is integrated into the whole of the business’ operations (from mobile apps to data collection tools), can be crucial for ensuring a smooth transition. This is where an IT advisory service can help.
3: The Cloud
The “Cloud” is sometimes treated as a nebulous and poorly-defined cure all for a business’ ills. While cloud-based services, like platform-as-a-service (PaaS), software-as-a-service (SaaS), disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS), and the like can be fast and cost-efficient methods for a business to solve specific challenges, not all cloud solutions are created equally.
It’s important for a business to have a clear strategy for adopting cloud solutions—including how they plan to deal with their legacy systems that may not be compatible with cloud-based technologies. Having a dedicated partner who can provide custom cloud solutions can be incredibly helpful for overcoming the challenge of integrating the cloud with the business’ operations.
Every business has to deal with a variety of compliance requirements. The challenge is that the specific requirements a business needs to meet can vary depending on a variety of factors such as:
- Company size;
- Industry vertical;
- Specific business model;
- Area of operation; and
- Customers served.
For example, companies servicing customers from the European Union (EU) have to follow the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses processing customer payment card data have to follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and healthcare businesses have to meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA’s) requirements.
Knowing which regulations and compliance standards apply to the business’ technology is a major part of avoiding potential fines and other penalties that can negatively impact the company’s operations. Here, having both business attorneys and IT professionals with experience in your company’s industry can help.
5: Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT devices have become a mainstay for both consumers and businesses. However, in a company’s digital transformation strategy, the Internet of Things can be a massive, unplanned IT hurdle.
IoT devices may often be forgotten about when organizations map out their IT infrastructure—creating potential gaps in their cybersecurity. For example, if there’s an unsecured IoT device, like a smart speaker, connected to the company’s secure Wi-Fi network, a malicious actor might be able to use that device to compromise the network.
Network World noted that “lack of firmware validation on device, lack of secure delivery (un-encrypted in transit), lack of anti-rollback mechanisms, and lack of notifications of security changes due to updates” all contribute to security problems with IoT devices.
Automation is important for many businesses. Manufacturers, in particular, heavily leverage automation tools to streamline manufacturing processes, increase employee safety, and help reduce manufacturing costs while increasing throughput. Meanwhile, other companies may use business process automation tools to automate the collection or transmission of data needed for specific workflows.
However, introducing new automation tools into any business workflow can create complications. Employees may need time to adjust to new automation tools and some may not easily adopt a new solution.
7: Integrations and Upgrades
A critical part of any digital transformation is managing integrations and upgrades. Integrating legacy systems into new technology and platforms—or upgrading/replacing those systems so they work with new architectures—can be a long and costly process that may not always go as planned.
There is always a chance for an application programming interface (API) failing to communicate properly between systems, equipment and software upgrades may be more costly than originally budgeted for, and some upgrades may take a long time—eating up resources and budget all the while.
Creating an effective IT management plan that removes or minimizes the risk factors associated with integrations and upgrades is a must for modern businesses.
8: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions help power many of the automation tools that businesses rely on. Machine learning, or the process by which AI programs use aggregated data to make improvements to predictive models or learn how to complete specific tasks without human input, is a major focus of many companies offering AI solutions to common business challenges.
However, not every AI (and machine learning algorithm) is created equally. It takes a lot of effort to find the right AI and machine learning algorithm for a given company’s business processes.
9: Remote Work Support
While many companies had been heading towards a remote workforce previously, the COVID-19 epidemic greatly sped things along. Now, “work from home” policies have become the norm—and that isn’t likely to change any time soon. According to data from Gallup, about two-thirds of U.S. workers who work remotely want to continue doing so.
Integrating cloud-based solutions and mobile apps that make collaboration between employees who are working remotely will be crucial for ensuring consistent remote work engagement. Additionally, companies will need to find ways to optimize their IT support for employees working remotely to help solve common computer problems and other issues.
10: Data Management
To ensure smooth business operations, employees need to have consistent and ready access to the information their job roles require them to have. However, businesses also need to ensure that sensitive data is protected from illicit access by unscrupulous individuals.
Effective data management can be difficult, as enforcing role-based access to specific databases, ensuring continuity of data access in case of a disaster (like a cyberattack or a loss of power at a data center), and keeping malicious actors out of the company’s data requires extensive preparation and resources.
11: Focus on Mobility
Mobile apps have become a basic part of many business processes—and for good reason. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 81% of people in the U.S. now own a smartphone of some kind. This means that the vast majority of workers probably have access to a smartphone—and many use their smartphones for both work and leisure.
Mobile enterprise applications can help employers give their employees the tools they need to collaborate more efficiently when working remotely. However, the variety of mobile device hardware and software (Apple’s iPhones, Android devices, etc.), can make ensuring a consistent and stable enterprise mobile app experience challenging.
12: Lack of Technical Training
Not every employee in an organization can be an IT professional—it’s part of the reason why IT professionals’ salaries can sometimes exceed six figures depending on the specific skills they have.
Getting employees to a basic level of technical competency so that they can successfully use enterprise applications, automation tools, and other IT assets provided by the company is critical for ensuring that enterprises can realize the maximum possible ROI from IT initiatives.
13: Infrastructure Changes
Major changes to a company’s IT infrastructure brought about by the implementation of new solutions and technologies can have a major disruptive effect on business operations. These disruptions can cost time and money as employees struggle to learn how to work with (or around) big changes.
Additionally, internally managing infrastructure changes can itself be a costly and time-consuming process. From provisioning IT capacity to managing the installation of upgraded systems, handling updates, and troubleshooting new solutions, doing things internally can be a massive time and money sink. This may be why many companies choose to leverage the benefits of outsourced IT management services to help them plan their infrastructure changes.
14: Social Media
Social media platforms are used by billions of people every day. With easy-to-use mobile apps, however, employees may often find themselves surfing their social media accounts while at work. This can prove to be an obstacle to employee focus and productivity at work—especially when people are working from home.
However, businesses can also leverage social media platforms to market their products and services. This creates opportunities to expand their reach and gain customers if used effectively.
Setting and enforcing policies regarding social media can help businesses minimize the productivity impacts of their use at work—but it can be a somewhat delicate subject. Using mobile device management (MDM) tools to prevent the installation of popular apps like Facebook and Twitter can stop people from checking their feeds, but it may be a bit off-putting if the subject isn’t broached the right way.
15: Project Management
IT project management, or the planning, organization, and implementation of IT initiatives, can be a difficult subject. Ineffective project management can easily lead to scope creep, budget overruns, and extensive delays for key IT initiatives. This, in turn, can negatively impact IT ROI.
Tracking IT project spend and the ROI for each initiative is crucial for avoiding overspending, wasting money on projects with no appreciable ROI, and optimizing future projects.
The Future of Technology
“Technology 2021” and beyond will continue to present new challenges for businesses of all sizes and industries—some may be easier to anticipate than others. In fact, Gartner projects that IT spending will reach "$3.8 trillion in 2021, and increase of 4% from 2020." Businesses that fall behind on connecting with the future of technology and what's next may have a harder time competing with organizations that are more up-to-date with technology trends.
From remote work and cloud-based applications to mobile device use and artificial intelligence, there's no end to the ever-changing trends that businesses need to adapt to so that they can thrive.
Is your business ready for the future of technology? Or, do you need a little help making the most out of the opportunities afforded by new software and hardware? Reach out to Systems X today to get started!