Businesses have been building up digital infrastructure for decades now, with everything from desktops and networks to printers and conference phones.
But when 2020 turned the whole world upside down, these businesses kicked their digital transformation into high gear, implementing new hardware, software, and policies across the board. Here are a few technology tools that companies have been happy to adopt in the past year.
The second communication starts to falter, that’s when bad things happen in business. Too many companies learned this the hard way, and are not implementing tech to fix the problem.
“Slack has been a great tool we’ve used to keep in touch with our employees through remote work and has made it more personable to talk to each other while we are not in the office,” said Jeff Goodwin, Sr. Director of Performance Marketing Ecommerce at Orgain. “Many of us have missed our office culture and to be able to bring that online has been great for morale and productivity.”
Most of the time, it doesn’t take a complete tech transformation to improve communication – just one or two key tools to stay in touch and keep up production.
While many new technologies are focused on strengthening communication between coworkers and teams across departments, others are meant to improve contact with leads and existing customers.
“We’ve elevated our efforts on social media to increase points of contact with customers, which has yielded us big returns throughout the year,” said Sunny Mills, Design and Production Director at Yoga Club. “Customers are in need of some more hand-holding right now, and we need to be there for them at every step of the journey.”
Whether it’s internal communication or customer outreach, the right tools can make it happen.
Coordinating schedules and projects across small teams is difficult enough. Imagine having to do this for an organization with hundreds or even thousands of people! It can be done right if you’ve got the right tech on your side.
“Some technology tools we have adopted into our professional environment this year have been Slack and Google Calendars/Meetings,” said Annabel Love, Co-Founder and COO of Nori. “These three tools have been a vital part of connecting with different members of our direct team and other companies we work with in a seamless and efficient way!”
Be open to trying new technologies that you may not be familiar with, since this is often the only way to make forward progress.
Look to the Future
If your company managed to navigate 2020 and turn a nice profit, you’ve earned a pat on the back. However, now is not the time to get complacent, since the next tech revolution is always right around the corner.
“The most important thing is to make the technology inclusive – make the world change,” said Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group. “Next, pay attention to those people who are 30 years old, because those are the internet generation. They will change the world; they are the builders of the world.”
No need to jump the gun and implement unnecessary technologies now – but be ready for when the time arrives.
While everyone was focused on things like project management and cross-team communication, some companies neglected customer experience during the 2020 crisis – a bad mistake indeed.
Brands that put CX first reaped the benefits and earned a major advantage over the competition.
“Customer experience software is helping our business dramatically in a year when things are shifting in a digital direction on every front,” said Dr. Zachary Okhah, Founder and Chief Surgeon of PH-1 Miami. “More interactions with customers throughout the sales and support process simply leads to better outcomes and higher rates of satisfaction.”
There might not be a perfect blueprint for customer experience, but certain technologies can certainly improve communication and optimize service in key areas.
Forward-thinking companies have been ramping up their digital infrastructure for years, but 2020 was a real wake-up call to take things to the next level in terms of software, training, and best practices.
“We’ve upgraded project management and collaboration software so that our teams can work more closely together on tasks despite being in different physical locations,” said Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper and Scott. “We had this infrastructure set up to an extent, but in the past year we’ve leveled it up in every possible way.”
Keep the feedback flowing from customers, employees, and partners, so that you don’t fall behind the curve in the near future.
With team members spread out across different locations and working on different schedules, companies needed a comprehensive tech product that brought everyone onto the same page, once and for all.
“The most impactful technology tool that we have adopted into our professional environment this year has to be Notion,” said Amber Theurer, Chief Marketing Officer at Ivee. “It has been one of the most vital parts of connecting with different members of our direct team and other companies we work with across the country and world in a seamless and efficient way! Through Notion, we have been able to add an immense amount of visibility to our systems and workflows across all team members and partnered entities.”
Have you found that one tech tool that was definitely worth the investment? If not, keep searching until you discover it.
For some companies, a complete digital overhaul wasn’t necessary to achieve their desired outcomes. Just a few key services did the trick, and little more was needed.
“We’re no different than anyone living through this,” said Cisco Adler, CEO and Founder of NoCap. “We live on Zoom and Slack.”
If you can avoid spending heaps of cash to get the same productivity out of your staff, why not keep new tech to a minimum? It just makes sense.
Since every business ramped up its outreach in 2020, things got saturated fast on the web. This meant that companies had to up their game in terms of production quality and messaging to stand out from the crowd.
“R3SET adopted promotional video tools as part of its marketing strategy,” said Harris Rabin, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at R3SET. “Our video promotions and interviews with our brand partner and investor has helped us increase our organic reach to a wider audience.”
Think outside the box in terms of content creation to set yourself apart moving forward, because the bar has definitely been raised.
Take a Chance
With heightened demand for technology like project management and productivity tools, software companies offered many chances to try their products with minimal commitment.
“Project management software is essential, and there are so many tools available that get the job done,” said Aidan Cole, Co-Founder of TatBrow. “Best of all, there are free trials available so that you can try out different apps and see how your teams adjust. Take advantage of those test runs when you can.”
You’ve got nothing to lose by trying out new software, and now is the time to use those free trials if you haven’t done so yet.
Ramp Up the Ads
Traditional advertising isn’t quite what it used to be, but there are countless new formats that have taken its place. Whether it’s on search or social media, paid ads are the present and the future, so learn the ropes ASAP.
“Paid media on social media platforms is an easy advertising strategy that is cost-effective,” said Shaun Price, Head of Customer Acquisition at MitoQ. “Typically, you can design an advertisement that is made to look like a post, so you’re already prepared with the imaging and tagline. Then you can set up how long it will run and set up the target demographic for your advertisement. This strategy is an alternative to influencer marketing because it uses social media algorithms for you to reach an audience and establish your brand name without someone else’s face on the product.”
It’s not that tough to figure out how paid ads work, but like anything in marketing, this practice is difficult to master.
Logistics took a big leap in 2020, even though things were slow going for a while. We finally realized just how important things like shipping are for customer satisfaction, and how it can make or break an experience for buyers.
“The time is now,” said Jeremy Bodenhamer, CEO and Co-Founder of ShipHawk. “Retailers should leverage the shipping process itself for its trove of data and invest in technology that will help them maximize every sales opportunity. Though doing so may take time, effort, and investment in the short term, in the long term the stakes – profits and customer satisfaction – couldn’t be higher.”
One thing is for sure – we’ll never take fast shipping times for granted again.
Efficiency and Action
There weren’t many silver linings to the events of 2020, but many companies took the opportunity to identify inefficiencies, speeding things up and fixing small issues.
“Our recent tech upgrades have been small additions to an existing infrastructure that was fairly strong to begin with,” said Sean O’Brien, CMO of Modloft. “Anything that boosts communication, simplifies projects, gives us more transparency – those are the apps that we’re looking to add to the mix.”
Never be satisfied with your current tech infrastructure, even if things seem to be working fine at the moment.
Many new connections were made this year on the IT and enterprise tech front, though not everyone achieved the results they wanted. Now is the time to build strong relationships with tech providers and lock in some trusted allies.
“Our company operates very collaboratively with the app developers, digital strategists, and brand partners, so it was a change when we couldn’t all be in the same workspace,” said Tyler Faux, CEO and Co-Founder of Supergreat. “We found that our productivity has not changed over the years since being remote because we are able to use direct messaging platforms that support video and audio call functions.”
You will want to have reliable technicians and operators in your corner moving forward, so don’t leave those things on the back burner for long.
For years, group phone calls were the norm, but 2020 will be remembered as the moment everyone made the big leap to video conferencing.
“We’ve begun using video conferencing platforms as we work remotely more than ever before,” said Randi Shinder, CEO of SBLA. “These tools have been useful for onsite conversations with our marketing studio, clients, and manufacturers. Operationally, we’ve been used to file sharing on a cloud system, but we’ve focused on security for full remote capacity for all remote systems.”
Does video really boost productivity in every way? Maybe not, but it’s a great tool to have moving forward.
How fast was your business able to switch to remote work, and what were the biggest obstacles you faced in the process? Take a moment to look back on the big picture now that most of the dust has settled from last year.
“It was a sink-or-swim situation at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic hit, but we’ve managed to navigate things well with our quick transition to a remote work environment,” said Artie Baxter, CEO of Paperclip. “Technology played a role, but we also owe big credit to our smart and adaptable employees who didn’t miss a beat the whole time.”
There’s no telling when the next big shift will happen, so we all best be prepared.
Companies had to move quickly amid the chaos of 2020 and adopt new technologies on the fly. This was a good lesson in deployment and agility for executives and employees alike.
“Like many companies, we’ve gotten Zoom accounts and we’ve adopted the norm of using this technology,” said Chris Caouette, Co-Founder of Gorilla Bow. “We’ve learned how to conduct group meetings over Zoom productively, using the ‘raise hand’ option so that everyone has their say without being interrupted. We’ve also become accustomed to creating slideshows regarding various projects and strategies we’re working on through Google Slides to share over Zoom.”
The winners of the next generation in business will move fast on new tech, so don’t underestimate the importance of speedy implementation.
When weighing the pros and cons of a new app or piece of hardware, it can be hard to tell if the investment is worthwhile. Improved communication is always a good indicator of ROI, so let that metric lead the way.
“Some technology tools we have adopted into our professional environment this year have been Slack, Outlook, and Zoom meetings,” said Raul Porto, Owner and President of Porto’s Bakery. “These three tools have been a vital part of connecting with different members of our direct team and other companies we work with easily and quickly.”
If there are any gaps in communication, that means lost productivity, so fill those gaps fast.
Not every piece of technology needs to be groundbreaking or transform the way we work. More often than not, these are small and simple add-ons that offer a minor performance boost in some way.
“We’ve built up all the essential conferencing and messaging tools so that they are second-nature to all our employees,” said Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity. “The learning curve wasn’t too difficult, and the ROI has been immense.”
Make sure your employees actually benefit from new tech tools, rather than leaving them sitting on the hard drive.
Some apps and services just help companies make incremental improvements, while others are totally transformative to the way they do business. Be ready to implement both types of tech, big and small.
“Over the last year we have adopted a lot of video conferencing tools,” said Kiran Gollakota, Co-Founder of Waltham Clinic. “We now provide virtual appointments for our clients, which was definitely a new venture for the healthcare industry. We were able to adapt quickly, and it has been successful so far. We found that we are able to treat lots of people over video and are still able to prescribe medications and more with video conferencing.”
We’ve only just begun to see the impact of technology in the workplace, so be ready to take things to the next level at any time. Whether we endure another crisis or just go about business as usual, new tech will be leading the charge in every way.