Mobile phones

Mobile Phones in Business

No matter what type of business you run, it is almost certain that telephone communication plays a vital role in communication with customers and business partners.

The mobile phone has become a part of everyday life for millions of people across the world. People now consider the ability to communicate by phone across the country (and even the world) as ordinary.

Despite this, many businesses are still missing out on the huge potential benefits of using mobiles phones as a part of their business.

“Businesses are still missing out”

Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages of using a mobile phone in business, and what you should consider when choosing whether to use a mobile phone.

Why Buy a Mobile – The Advantages

1. Accessibility
The biggest advantage of having a business mobile phone is that it becomes much easier to contact you. Instead of being told “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith is away from the office”. A colleague or customer can be puut straight through to your mobile phone. Even if they can only speak to you briefly, it is better than turning them away with no contact.

Being available by mobile phone allows employees to contact you. In the event of a cr

ritical problem, it can be communicated to you and a decision taken, without you having to be in the office.

If your staff is given mobile phones as part of their work, then they become instantly more accessible. This is particularly so for employees that travel to customers, different departments or offices, and will not always be available from their normal location.

Mobile phones can allow a whole network of employees or offices to communicate with each other no matter where they are. Even if each employee has their own land telephone number, when they are away from that location they normally become unreachable. Effective use of mobile phones can help improve both employer to employee, and employee to employee communications.

2. Common
Mobile phones arre now so common that many people expect you to have one. Instead of hanging up when told you are not there to answer a call, many people will now ask for a mobile number as a matter of course. This is especially so if your job takes you out of the office for considerable amounts of the week, people will expect to have another number to contact you on.

This is much more so for business to business dealings. A cu

ustomer will not normally expect to be able to communicate personally on a mobile with an employee. However, a manager at a purchasing or supplying business will usually want to be able to keep in contact with a senior employee at all times.

3. Time

A mobile phone gives you more time to communicate. An important conversation can take place anywhere (e.g.: on a train), which puts less restrictions on time.

If you travel for 3 hours of every working day, then normally you would lose those 3 hours of communication, a mobile phone allows you to get those hours back. This means you can get through necessary phone calls quicker, and can provide better response times to customer or associate enquiries.

4. Details

A mobile phone allows you to confirm and check details quickly. If you went to an important meeting, and forgot a piece of important information (I’m not saying you will, but it does happen!) then usually you would be stuck without it.

However, one call or text message to an employee during the journey could allow you to get that information right up to the last minute without anybody else ever knowing.

“You can also check on the office while away”

A mobile means you can also ch

heck on the office while away from it. There is no need to worry about returning to find that a major development is behind schedule. With a mobile phone employees can keep you up to date on sales or projects, and you can manage and delegate at any time.

5. Bookings and Appointments

Using a mobile phone has two advantages in the process of making and keeping bookings and appointments.

Firstly, the ability to allow instant checking of appointments, you can communicate with an employee, or with the person you intend to meet at any time to confirm, clarify, or alter meeting details (e.g.: location, time). This means that if meeting needs to be changed at the last minute, all parties involved can be informed quickly, even if on their way there.

Secondly, with the rapidly increasing technology of mobile phones, many have the ability to act as a fully functional organizer. This is particularly on the phone models aimed at business users. You can set reminders and notes in the same way as a paper organizer.

6. Email messages

There is no need to go without email messages on the move. It is now possible to be informed by phone call or text message of all (or sp

pecifically selected) new emails, and some packages also allow you access to all your emails via the WAP and GPRS (mobile internet) connections of newer phones.

Some network packages even allow notification of faxes. This then allows you to forward the message to the nearest fax number and receive it.

A good mobile package means that you can be informed about all important communications while you are away, so even when miles from the office, your ability to communicate with customers employees and associates is not significantly diminished.

7. Re-Direction and Answer Services

A mobile phone can act as a good extension of a land phone. Instead of callers to your land phone then having to try your mobile number, they can be forwarded almost instantly if you are not there.

For extra cost, the mobile phones can be used as part of an existing switchboard. This allows callers to be put straight through to you from the office switchboard or reception without the inconvenience of dialling two numbers.

When out on business matters, you may not have the time to answer all your calls. You can pay for someone else answer for you by using a personalized answer service.

When you request the service or are unable to take a call, it will be answered by a person at the network provider (or answer Service Company) using a greeting that you request. After a call is taken, a text message is sent to you detailing the call. If certain calls are important, they can be forwarded on to you while others leave a message.

8. Dual Lines

One of the main concerns about giving employees mobile phones is that they will use them for personal calls and run up massive bills. However, banning personal use of the phones altogether can create a negative attitude, and shows a lack of trust towards employees.

One solution is to use a dual line. Some network operators allow businesses to run mobile phones with two lines, one for business use and one for personal use. Employees can use the phone for personal calls, but pay for those calls themselves.

This has two advantages. The employee does not feel mistrusted, and can make personal calls when necessary; and the employer can feel safer that they will not be paying excessive bills for non-business calls.

9. International

Most new phones are able to work in a number of countries, which means that even when you are abroad on business trips you can still be instantly accessible.

However, the only problem with this is the huge costs. You are charged for incoming calls, as well as outgoing calls, and the charges often run into Ј2-3 per minute for calling, and around Ј1 per minute for receiving.

Why Buy a Mobile – The Disadvantages

1. More Calls

A disadvantage of being accessible from anywhere in the country is that people who try to sell you things and waste your time are also able to access you more easily. You could also find that people try to contact you outside of business hours, leaving you with too many unwanted calls.

This can be countered by using some of the re-direction and answering services available to business mobile phone users, as well as by only giving the number out to important customers or key employees.

“Costs”

2. Potential Cost

The biggest fear many employers have over using a mobile phone for business is that the costs will be so high as to damage their business. This is a potential danger, particularly when employees are using business mobiles, as there is a risk that some employees could misuse the phone raising bills massively.
However, very few employees deliberately misuse their phones, and a few personal phone calls are as much as most people will make.
The costs of running business mobiles can be very high, but there are also several ways to significantly lower the bills:

If employees are informed that the mobile should only be used when a landline phone is not available, then call numbers and costs should remain relatively low.

Use of a dual line package, or charging employees for non-business calls, can make sure bill charges are kept as low as possible.

Most importantly, choosing the right package, with the right prices and features can make a massive difference to the cost of your businesses’ mobile phone calls.

3. Mobiles on their Own

Mobile phones have large advantages for businesses. However, they are much less effective without a landline number to back them up.

If a customer sees a mobile phone number as the only source of contact, then most will automatically assume that the business is small and has no office or resources. The traditional impression of a business user with only a mobile number is the local plumber or electrician.

If a customer speaks to employees that have a landline number and a mobile number, it gives the impression that the business is large and established.

Remember!

A mobile phone allows you to be accessible at all times, wherever you are. It can help improve communication between staff and customers, particularly business to business customers that may involve traveling.

“Accessible at all times”

A good business phone package will allow you to receive emails, and be notified of important calls and faxes, meaning that being away from the office will not separate you completely from essential communications.

Re-direction services can take people straight to your mobile number from an existing landline, and you can even set up a personal answering service for when you are too busy to receive calls.

Mobile phones for employees can work out as expensive, but they allow for better communication; and if properly managed and set-up, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Choosing the Right Mobile Phone Package

When choosing a mobile phone package, it is crucial to consider what your needs are.

A package that is perfect for one business may be completely wrong for another.

The three most important factors in choosing a mobile phone package are:

• Who you call
• When you call
• How much you call

Most business packages are charged monthly, and paying a higher rental cost will give you extra inclusive minutes or cheaper rates on your calls. Inclusive minutes are part of many packages; you pay for a number of minutes upfront at a greatly reduced cost as part of the line rental each month.

“Many packages available”

There are many packages available, and finding a suitable package can be difficult, but will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Who do you and your Employees Call?

The costs of mobile phone calls vary considerably depending on the type of phone called.
Phone calls to landlines and to the same network are the cheapest, while phone calls to other mobile phone networks can often cost up to 5 or 6 times the cost of same network calls.

It therefore makes absolute sense to purchase the same network for all employees that will have mobile phones. Not only will this reduce call charges significantly, it may also give you enough spending power to be able to negotiate a small discount.

If the majority of people you or your employees would be contacting use landlines, or if there will be a large number of internal calls, then it makes sense to look for a package which offers cheap landline rates or a number of landline/same network minutes included.

If your contacts mobile phone numbers are mainly based on one network, then it may reduce costs significantly to sign up for the same network provider to reduce call charges.

If your contacts are based across a number of mobile networks, then it would make sense to look for a package that offers a good cross network rate or includes a number of inclusive minutes to all networks. These are more expensive, but will work out cheaper compared to the actual call costs.

When do you and your Employees Call?

There are usually two types of mobile packages. Those that have a fixed rate all day, and those that have a peak (usually 9am-6/7pm) and an off-peak (usually 6/7pm to 9am) rate.

“Varying rates”

To get the most cost effective mobile package, you need to carefully consider the times that you or your employees will be making calls, as the varying rates are different enough to make a substantial difference to the cost of your bills.

If you or your employees make all of their calls between 9am and 5pm (the times most common for businesses), then it makes sense to go for the cheapest peak rate, or an all day package with higher off-peak and lower peak rates. Packages with included ‘anytime’ minutes will also save you money.

If you or your employees make all of their calls outside of office hours (for example: night shift workers), then it makes sense to go for the package with the cheapest off-peak rate. As most calls will be made outside of the peak rate, it does not matter too much if the peak rate is high, as long as the off-peak rate is low. Packages with lots of included off-peak minutes will usually save you money.

If you or your employees make calls throughout the whole day, then it makes sense to go for a package that offers a low fixed rate. Peak and off-peak rates are not important, and going for a package with two rates will invariably cost more. A fixed rate allows calls at anytime of day, without worrying about expensive charges at certain points.

How Often Will you and your Employees Call?

The monthly rental costs of packages vary considerably along with the call charges. The general rule is, the more you pay in monthly charges; the more inclusive minutes you get, and the more you save on call costs. However, there is no point paying for 10,000 inclusive minutes a month, when you only expect to use 500.

Many packages allow you to split the inclusive minutes over several phones, which works out more efficiently for businesses with several mobile phone users. It is also commonplace for you to be able to change the package you are on every month or two. So if you choose a package that is too expensive, you can move to a different package that is better for you without losing too much.
Inclusive minutes normally come in three forms:

(1) Off-peak – These minutes are only valid to landlines and same network calls during off-peak times (usually 6/7pm to 9am), and are therefore only of use to businesses making phone calls outside of office hours. They are the cheapest form of inclusive minutes, but also the least likely to be of importance to businesses.

(2) Anytime – These minutes are valid to landlines and same network calls during both peak and off-peak rates. They are of use to businesses that make phone calls to landlines or the same network during normal office hours. They are of particular use if a large number of internal mobile to mobile calls will be made.

They are more expensive than off-peak minutes, but considerably more useful for the majority of businesses.

(3) Any Network / Anytime – These minutes are valid to landlines and all networks during both peak and off-peak times. They are of use to businesses that make large numbers of external phone calls to companies or customers that may not be on the same network. They are the most expensive form of free minutes, but if needed, will save you considerable amounts on the cost of cross network calls.

Is it worth paying for inclusive minutes?

There is little doubt that inclusive minutes can save you a lot of money. However, if your mobile phone is used almost entirely for incoming calls or short infrequent outgoing calls, then it will normally be cheaper to simply pay for what you are using.

“Inclusive minutes can save you a lot of money”

In cases where your mobile phone use is small, it is not worth paying for free minutes that will not be used; instead, opting for a basic package with a lower monthly rental will be cheaper in the majority of these cases.

Pre-Payment

Some businesses use a system of pre-payment (“Pay as you go”) for their mobile phones. This is where all calls are paid for in advance. Talk credit is bought and added to the phone, and calls can be made until this credit runs out.

Pre-payment is available on all of the major networks, although it is normally advertised as just a consumer service, not a business service.

The main advantage of pre-payment is that you only pay for what you use. There are no monthly charges, and there is no need for any contract. This also makes it impossible to run up a large phone bill as everything will need to be bought in advance.

The main disadvantage is that call charges are more expensive than contract phones, and there are no inclusive minutes. This means that any business making more than two or three brief phone calls a day will probably be better off on a contract package.

It is also difficult to implement pre-pay phones for employees, as there will be lots of extra administration involved in purchasing phone credits, which is one reason why small business are the majority users of pre-pay phones for business use. There is also a risk that calling credit will run out in the middle of an important conversation.

With pre-payment services, you pay for the phone and then connect. The phones will be more expensive as those on contracts are subsidized by the service providers.

If however, your business needs a phone for incoming calls only, or makes only a small number of short calls, then pre-pay services will more than likely work out cheaper.

Using Mobile Phones in Business Example 1

The scenario: A Garage with mechanics that travel out to repair vehicles 24 hours a day.

The mobile phones allow the mechanics to communicate with the garage, so they know where they are and can pass new customer information on to them. The phones also allow the mechanics to communicate with customers.

“Communicate with customers”

Although the garage and mechanics will call each other on the same network, the calls to customers will be on different networks. Total outgoing calls will be around 1500 minutes between them each month.

They should look for: At least 1500 of Anytime and Any Network inclusive minutes, which can be split between all of the mechanics phones, and used for communication between both the garage and customers. The cost of purchasing the free minutes will work out much less than that of a large number of cross network and peak rate calls. A package with a flat rate would be cheaper than a package with peak and off-peak rates.

However, if the mechanics communicate only with the garage and other mechanics on landlines and the same network, it will be cheaper to purchase anytime minutes for just that network.

Using Mobile Phones in Business Example 2

The scenario: 3 managers that travel between offices.

All the calls are made to company landlines and other manager’s phones on the same network to arrange meetings and help solve problems. Total outgoing calls will be around 2000 minutes each per month.

They should look for: 8000 or more anytime minutes to landlines and the same network, to be split between the managers phones. As no calls will be to other mobile networks, there is no need to pay extra for cross-network minutes. The cost of the free minutes will be less than the cost of peak rate call charges. A package with a flat rate would be cheaper than a package with peak and off-peak rates.

Using Mobile Phones in Business Example 3

The scenario: A shop owner who occasionally travels to visit suppliers.

The owner uses the phone as a backup for the landline, and for emergency contact when out of the office.

Most of the calls are incoming, with total outgoing calls at around 50 minutes per month.

They should use a pre-pay mobile phone or basic contract package. It will almost certainly be cheaper to pre-pay for the calls than to pay each month for inclusive minutes and reduced rates that will be of no benefit because so few of the calls are outgoing.

Remember!

The cost of mobile phone calls varies significantly depending on whom you call and when you call them.

Landlines and same network calls are cheapest, with cross-network calls being the most expensive by far.

A flat all day price rate is likely to be the best value for most businesses unless you make large amounts of calls outside of normal office hours.

You should always have a detailed look at which package best suits your business’ needs before choosing a package. The right package can save you hundreds of pounds, but the wrong package can cost you thousands.

Pre-pay phones are not much use for most businesses; however they are a viable option for businesses that use very few minutes of talk time. As an average figure, using more than 100 minutes a month (about 4 minutes a day!) would probably justify a contract phone, but anything less will usually be cheaper on pre-pay.

There are many mobile phone packages for businesses, and carefully choosing the right one will provide all the benefits of using a mobile phone for business at a cost effective rate.

Mobile Communication

Introduction

Mobile communication is progressing at a speed that is rapidly extending the range of possibilities that can be achieved through mobile technology. This is beneficial to small businesses due to the enhanced communications that mobile phones now have to offer, ranging from talk to Internet access, and soon to video.

The latest technology advances are orientated to provide business solutions, but many people are not aware of their availability and further, do not fully understand their capabilities.

Since the first mobile phone was released, about twenty years ago, all walks of life have become dependant upon them: as we know, the younger population has taken to the device with fervour.

We all need to acknowledge that mobile phones can play an integral part in business, and regard the technology as an important business tool at that.
The following article will give an insight into the more popular functions of mobile phones and will show the benefit to small businesses. Plus, what you can expect future technology to provide: we all need to understand what the technology is about and ensure that we have sufficient knowledge when technology does progresses and becomes more common in the work-place.

Mobile Communication in Small Businesses

You may not have considered the need for mobile phones in your business but have you ever needed to contact a member of staff when they are away from the premises? Have you ever needed Internet access when you do not have your desk top PC available? These are just a couple of examples but as you will find out from reading the article, mobile phones can offer you a range of solutions.

Mobile phones were introduced so we could communicate when “on the move” and the capabilities have now expanded beyond their initial function for talk: you can now use mobile phones to access/receive a range of information wherever you are.

Until recently, the use of mobile phones had been restricted to the country that your network lies in i.e. if you are registered with a UK network, say, BT Cellnet, then you could not use the phone outside of the UK. The introduction of dual-band connections has allowed phones to be used in the rest of Europe and tri-band connections has allowed usage in the US and Asia: this will be a welcome breakthrough for people that go abroad for business purposes.

PC Windows applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel are now being introduced to mobile phones allowing work to be completed when away from the business premises. To compensate, the size of the screen has been enlarged on the phones that use these applications. These phones are usually the larger of the phones available.

What are SIM Cards?

SIM (Subscriber Information Module) cards are around 1cm x 2cm in size and fit in the back of your mobile phone handset. These cards (that have a small chip) are your authorization to use the mobile network and store any information that is used on the mobile phone handset such as text messages and phone settings. The SIM card also holds your unique phone number and any security settings such as network pin numbers.

Some SIM cards can be used in other handsets and so you will take with it any information that has been stored on the card including your telephone number. If you ever decide to change handsets then you should contact your service provider (Orange, Vodafone, etc) for details on the compatibility of your SIM card with other phones: some handsets will not be compatible with certain service providers.

Some phones can hold more than one SIM card so that you can use different services (free minutes, free SMS, etc) that are provided by different service providers on the same phone. By doing so, you can switch from one SIM to another at the press of a button without having to manually change them around each time. Each SIM card will have a different telephone number and therefore each time you change your SIM card, you change with it your number.

Talk

Since the beginning, the most common function of a mobile phone is for talking: you can contact other phones (both land and mobile) by dialling the appropriate number. In addition, you can be contacted by having your own unique mobile phone number (stored on the SIM) that can be dialled from any other phone (both land and mobile).

There are certain limitations to when a call can be made or received:
• You must have available credit to make a call (incoming calls are free) but this only applies if you use a pay-as-you-go service. ‘Contract’ services have unlimited credit that is paid off monthly
• You must have ‘reception’ to make and receive calls: all service providers cover approximately 99 per cent of the UK but the quality of the reception will vary from place to place (even different rooms in a house can affect the reception quality!)

Short Message Service (SMS): Text Messages

SMS allows text messages to be sent and received from one mobile phone to another mobile phone. These messages could deliver information to a member of staff who is away from the premises, say, a customer address or a change in meeting time. SMS is considered as the cheaper alternative for delivering short pieces of information as it is usually cheaper than making a call. The other advantage of SMS is that messages are delivered within seconds of sending them assuming that the receiving phone:
• Is turned on
• Has reception
• Has available space in the phone memory (SIM Card) for the message to be received

The disadvantage is that the length of the message is limited to 160 characters due to technical restrictions: hence the term ‘Short Message Service’.

Text messages can be sent directly from PCs to mobile phones by using the on-line services available at many sites such as Lycos for example.

GSM (Global System for Mobile communication): The Basics

GSM is the digital mobile phone network that is used throughout Europe and in most other areas around the world. GSM can provide for voice-mail (answer phone service), faxing, SMS and high-speed data transfer (WAP) as well as for talk.

GPRS (General Packet Radio System): The Basics

GPRS is a technology that does not replace GSM, but uses the GSM network to allow data to be sent/received at higher speeds.

Further, the technology (without going into the science) allows you to pay only for the time that the information takes to send/receive. This payment method is only valid for the use of WAP (see below) and does not apply when talking.

The advantages of GPRS are further highlighted in the next section.

Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)

WAP is a technology designed to allow Internet material (web pages, e-mail, etc) to be viewed on mobile phones. WAP browsers on the phone display text-only versions of web pages as images have to be removed due to the limited bandwidth that the network currently has to offer. GSM offers speeds of around 9.6Kbps but the new GPRS has allowed speeds of around 20-24Kbps. The older WAP phones will still use the original GSM network but the new WAP phones that you see available today will use GPRS.

GSM phones have to go through the slow log-in processes when using WAP, but GPRS provides a continuous connection for the day once logged in. As said before, GPRS will allow web pages to be read without the worry of cost because the time used to download the information is the only chargeable period for using WAP (Important: talk time rates will be independently charged): GSM charges for the total time connected.

The information that can be viewed by WAP mobile phones is currently limited to news, finance, directories, travel, shopping, sport and e-mail (detailed later) but can be extremely useful. Although GPRS has expanded the capabilities of WAP such as faxing and e-mailing, the next generation technology will make a huge difference to how we will interact between mobile phones and the Internet.

3G: The Third Generation Future of Mobile Phone Technology

The first generation (1G) of mobile phones (1970s – 1980s) involved:
• Analogue transmission
• The limitation to making ‘voice’ calls
• Only being able to use the mobile phone in one country

The second generation (2G) began in the early 1990s and saw the introduction of digital transmission allowing SMS to be integrated into the service of mobile phones. The advance into new technology during the millennium, such as WAP, has been called 2.5G: this is where we are now and 3G is just around the corner.

3G is the era for the introduction of broadband so that the number of possibilities from a mobile phone could be endless such as interactive media e.g. high quality video-conferencing. Web pages will become more accessible and will be received at much higher speeds of around 2Mbps. 3G will also allow mobile phones to support Java so that interactive web pages can be downloaded.

The next generation of mobile phones will also see the introduction of MMS (Multimedia Messaging) allowing images, animations, clips and text to be sent to another MMS phone or PC. The phones that offer this capability were available to buy in the UK around May 2002 at prices averaging Ј150. The introduction of color screens on mobile phones made available during the same time further enhances the MMS feature.

Built-in mobile phone cameras, made available at the same time as MMS, allows images to be displayed on mobile phone screens (just like a digital camera). Images can then be saved as JPEG’s and can be stored or sent to other MMS mobile phones and PCs.

It is predicted that 3G technology will see mobile phones (and other mobile units such as Palm-tops) being used just as much as desktop PCs once the technology has been fully integrated. As a result, it has been suggested that mobile phones are mass-produced as lap-top computers.

E-mail

With the introduction of WAP, came the availability of e-mail from mobile phones. The user must first have an on-line e-mail account: these can usually be set up directly with your mobile phone service provider by registering your details on their web site. Alternatively, the most popular independent mobile phone service can be found at www.iobox.com where an e-mail account can be created.

To send an e-mail, you would write it on your mobile phone (as you would text messages) and send it directly to the required address. The length of the e-mails is not restricted in length and so you can write messages in full. To receive an e-mail, you would download your e-mails directly to your phone by using WAP to connect to your e-mail account via the Internet. Some service providers send an indication to your phone when you have received a new e-mail usually in the form of a load “beep” or SMS.

Some of the newer phones without WAP do offer an e-mailing option but e-mails can only be sent and not received. The lengths of these e-mails are still limited to the 160-character length as for SMS.

Blue-Tooth

Blue-tooth is a technology that allows communication between digital devices such as PCs, mobile phones, lap-tops and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). It is achieved by a short-range (around 10 metres) wireless connection that will vary in form depending on what hardware it is to be associated with:
• The back of a mobile phone will be replaced by a compatible blue-tooth battery
• PDAs/lap-tops will have a compatible blue-tooth connectivity card
• PCs will have a USB (common on PCs) blue-tooth adaptor

Not all mobile phones are compatible for blue-tooth technology but the phones that are becoming available do compensate for such use. The most common mobile phone that is compatible for the use of blue-tooth communication is the Nokia 6210e pictured on the right.

The blue-tooth technology can be used to create a three-way connection allowing three pieces of hardware to be connected together at any one time. Information can then be replicated from, say, a mobile phone to a PC by sending the data via the wireless (infra-red) blue-tooth connection. For information to be transferred, all devices must have the same software application in which the data can be replicated i.e. a mobile phone must have the application Microsoft Word for a Word document to be replicated from a PC.

Introducing New Technology

Introduction

New technology is being introduced at an alarming speed, even more as we have entered the 21st century. In some way these advances will effect, if not already, the way that your business operates and competes in the future.

Can you afford to work without these changes or is it essential that you keep up with technological advances to keep your business pushing forward? The following article will help you determine an answer by outlining the impact of introducing new technology.

New technology can be put into different categories that will help you understand the different effects they could have:

A NEW PRODUCT/SERVICE:
For example, mini-discs, lap-top computers, interactive TV (for home shopping, games, banking, etc)
NEW BUSINESS OPERATIONS:
For example, automatic cash tills, computer aided design (CAD), e-mail, remote working, etc

A NEW PRODUCTION PROCESS:
For example, ordering, invoicing to robotic arm manufacturing.

NEW MATERIALS:
For example, silicon chips (computers), polystyrene packaging, etc

What is Technology?

There are many different terms for ‘technology’ but in general, it is better known as:
‘something that uses a human, scientific or material approach to solve problems to result in increased efficiency.’

For a common example, you are using technology now to read this: a computer. You may also use your computer to send e-mails instead of sending letters through the post: more efficient- getting the idea? Information Technology will be discussed further later in the article.

Keeping up with one of the most recent technology fashions- mobile phones: you use these so that you keep in contact with people if you leave the premises.

What Can be Considered as New Technology?

Simply, it can be classed as technology that has just been introduced and is available to all. It may be the introduction of something completely new or even the development of something that already exists.

Introduction of new technology:

Without going into specifics, It all begins with an invention or an idea not only by people within businesses, but also by independent people. For an extreme example, the idea of using photonics (light) in medical equipment has recently given the breakthrough of new procedures such as ‘key hole surgery’.

Development of existing technology:

Right now, there is a continuous development and introduction of new technology, for example, with computers: digital cameras, laser printing, web cams (conferencing), processors (Pentium 4 now available), the list can go on.

Introducing Information Technology into Your Business

Today, perhaps the most popular introduction of new technology in a small business is the use of Information Technology (IT). It may be that your business currently uses IT in the workplace to assist daily operations but are you using it to the full potential?

Administration – Invoicing

The current requirements are that you keep a hard copy of your invoices for six-years: the government is now allowing some degree of relaxation in this area (see Customs & Excise at www.hmce.gov.uk). But the six-year rule should not stop you from sending and receiving invoices by email and then printing a hard copy: this will result in more co operation between supplier and customer, plus quicker communication. Invoicing and ordering are similar in procedure and once you use both of these tasks on-line it is a major step towards e-commerce.

Communications
The popular way of sending/receiving documents and information with speed is via e-mail. This method sends the information through telephone wires to the end location within seconds. Quite recently, mobile phones have been adapted so they can use e-mail and have access to the Internet.

Trading

IT can be used as a form of trading and this is mainly done via the Internet (also known as e-commerce). The rise in popularity of the Internet has pushed businesses into using the facility to sell their products/service. It is also used for the opposite reason where purchases can be made instantly via the Internet. The introduction of new Internet connection technology (broadband) has further built up the Interest of users.

Production

If your business has a production line, IT can be installed to control the many procedures that may be involved. For example, lasers can be installed for quality control and computers can be programmed to operate machinery (start/stop, etc).

Research

Again, the most popular use of IT for research is accessing the Internet. The Internet offers a wide range of information which can be helpful for researching business projects: this is as true for the small business as for larger ones.

Administration

With the use of computers, regular tasks (updating records, writing letters, etc) can be completed and recorded with accuracy and speed using appropriate software (Excel, Word, Access, etc). This information can then be easily recovered for future viewing and interaction such as faxing and invoicing. This procedure also reduces the need for filing.

Other uses may include keeping records of operations in the business (sales, turnover, stock figures, etc), employee details and customer/supplier information. This information can again be easily accessed when required.

The Advantages of New Technology in Your Business

REDUCED WASTE will lead to lower costs. Today, the amount of waste produced by technology can be the difference between strict environmental regulations and closure (but of course, also profitability).

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY where properly assessed, increased production, through efficiency and better planning, can also result from the introduction of new technology.

LESS WORKFORCE may be needed if jobs that previously required personnel can now be automated, further reducing costs. This is an added advantage if you have few employees already, otherwise you may face redundancies.

HIGHER PROFITS due to the increased efficiency which produces less costs. It may also be that new technology allows jobs to be completed quicker so that cash flow is more fluid.

A HIGHER INCOME can be yours if your business is making more profit. You may even decide to give your employees a bonus that could increase their motivation.

ADVANCED COMMUNICATIONS such as the use of e-mail, computer networks and mobile phones allow information to be sent/received instantly. This is especially useful for long distances where documents and information needs to be passed on quickly. Remote work-force employers (employing travelling sales, home workers etc) have instant access to staff from mobile phones, web cams from PC’s and on-the-road lap tops.

MORE COMPETITIVE as you can afford to lower the price of your product/service if your profit levels increase, without lowering your standards.

The Disadvantages of New Technology in Your Business

THE MANAGEMENT of new technology can be extremely difficult. If the decision of purchasing new technology is down to you, do you buy now or wait for the next technological advance? Also, you have to decide if the technology is really needed as some things can be expensive. Integrating the technology into your workforce is another task in its self.
NEW SKILLS may be needed to operate the new technology and so you will have to re-train your employees.
MAINTENANCE of the technology will be required to keep it efficient. More importantly, if it is a piece of machinery on a production line: what if it beaks down – will it put a stop to all production?
COSTS are something that will be reduced if integrated properly. You have to consider if you have the finance to purchase the technology in the first place. Secondly, if it is to replace employees, will you have to issue redundancy pay?

TIME can be lost if you have to reorganize the workplace to set up the new technology. This could be an important issue if your business works to tight deadlines. If you have a network of PC’s (even two) you will have to know something about computers to ensure quick resolvement of IT issues.

Working Without New Technology

It may not be your business that uses the latest technology but in some way, your business will still be affected by its introduction. Those who you have connections with may be integrating new technology (example, suppliers) and therefore have a ‘knock on effect’ onto your business. There are literally hundreds of examples that can illustrate this, but to help you understand in the simplest terms we will just outline the more general issues.

For an extreme example, your supplier may also be the manufacturer of your product, and by implementing the latest technology it is making their costs much lower through increased efficiency. Although they may keep their selling prices the same, if you have good relations, they may offer you their service at a lower rate.

Related to the example above, the delivery costs of stock/materials will be reduced significantly due to the introduction of new technology such as better transport storage facilities. f your business uses transport services to deliver your products to locations around the country, than you will further benefit from this advance.

If your competitors modernize their operations and products/service with technological advances, this is where you can suffer. By making their own operations more efficient through reduced costs and speed, they can offer their products/service at lower prices which you may not be able to compete with. Also, little things such as the packaging of their products with new lighter and stronger materials (example, polystyrene) will give their product a significant advantage in the market.

Summary

New Technology is being introduced all the time making it more efficient to what is currently available. What you have to decide is whether you need to upgrade to the latest technology in an attempt to be more profitable/operational/competitive, or if you can push your business forward without it.

You further have to take into account where this new technology is heading: will it dominate the future way of doing a task, or is it something that customers will lean towards when buying a product (for example, a new material)? If so, you have to consider if your business will be ‘left behind’ in terms of new advances which could damage your image.

Introducing new technology does have its disadvantages which may be short term caused by it’s initial integration (re-organizing, re-training, etc). It is a task of weighing these up against the advantages to see if you will benefit from its use.

You may come to a conclusion that your business won’t benefit from new technology and this is fair to say. If your business doesn’t need to rely on the latest technology to help push forward and remain competitive, then this is a decision you may have made from reading articles like this, word of mouth, or that un-convincing salesman. To others, you may have realized that new technology can benefit your business in some way.

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