Technology for technology's sake can hurt. We are so inundated with new solutions that it's difficult to assess what's truly important. I discussed this issue with Amber Anderson, CEO of organizational advisory firm Kayson in Phoenix; Rebecca Devaney, CEO of Hunter Creative Labs, a pro-social product development lab in Boston; and Thomas Smale, co-founder of online business brokerage FE International in London.
What business technology do you need to run a successful company?
Amber Anderson: It totally depends on the business. Every business is different, and the technology that you need to run YOUR business successfully depends on a variety of factors including what your business does, your team's capacity, your budget and your goals.
But for the most part, you'll find all businesses nowadays should be using email, cloud storage, and a well-designed, easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly and -functional website. Also, you need a list and email marketing tool, as well as a bookkeeping [and] accounting system.
Rebecca Devaney: In addition to the obvious needs such as computers and hardware, there should be software systems in place to address casual project conversations, such as Slack, and project management systems, such as Project, Wrike, Basecamp or Zoho Projects.
The PM software you choose depends on a few things, including time-tracking and task dependencies. In addition, you will need bookkeeping software, such as Botkeeper or Quickbooks, and then a shared file service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. No document should ever live on a staff member's desk.
Thomas Smale: A good portable laptop and smartphone are essential to keeping up on the go. I always carry a portable charger to ensure that I don't have battery issues.
Tell me about a business technology you've employed for your business that hasn't been worth the time, money and energy.
Smale: We tried to make everyone have a smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop PC. We found that some people preferred using two or three devices and almost no one used all of them.
Individually, each can be incredibly useful, but when you have them all, the benefits are mitigated. If your people work in an office with permanent desks, get them PCs with dual monitors and a smartphone. That's really all that most will need.
Devaney: Several years ago, we built a 16 terabyte, fiber-optic storage system to produce and share videos. It was great, except that there were about three people in the world who could fix the system. It broke all the time, and we couldn't upgrade our computers or add any new software to it. It would have been better to pass hard drives around old school!
Anderson: In the beginning stages of my business, we implemented a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The system was complicated and expensive, and we weren't ready. We didn't have the team in place to manage it, nor the processes to make it useful. CRMs and other automated systems are amazing, but only when implemented at the right time and the right place.
For the rest of the interview, head over to the AMEX Open Forum.