How to Make Technology Work for You
By Chris Brown
In a very general sense I’m going to make a statement: If there’s a hole if your life, there’s a piece of technology to fill it. When you think about it, that statement is very true. Traveling across country but don’t know the best route? You can get a GPS system to point the way. Need a date? There’s a million websites to help with that. Tired of missing the garbage can? How about a can that catches your trash for you! If the folks at Apple® are to be believed, no matter the problem, “there’s an app for that”.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, portable, and accessible, technology starts to make more sense as an answer to not only our personal needs but our business needs as well.
Then and Now
Every major industry in the world takes advantage of technology in one way or another, specifically personal computers. While the service industry may be as old as time, the use of personal computers and software to support businesses, especially smaller ones, is still fairly young. As early as the 1990’s a personal computer could cost as much as $3500. Because of their cost and larger sizes back then these weren’t the type of things you would run out and buy a dozen of. Couple that with the fact that they were slower and there weren’t many software options, doing things by hand back then simply made more sense. Fast forward to today and that same figure could buy you several computers that are, and I’m not exaggerating, 30 times more powerful and your software options are plentiful. With that added power comes increased productivity. Studies show that even the smallest change, such as adding a second monitor to a setup, can increase productivity anywhere between 9 to 50 percent.
Okay, so computers and software are better now than they used to be, that’s obvious but why you may want or need one isn’t. Let’s try to clarify that with another statement: The whole point is to make your life easier by saving you time and money. Trying to break down and explain the intricate details of ‘how’ for the various reasons could take the length of a book but to be general a lot of it boils down to time management, security, and removing the ‘human error’ factor (which, itself, boils down to time management again).
Think about the idea for that trash can that catches your trash when you throw it. Right now, every time you ball up a piece of paper and throw it toward the trash can there’s a probability that you will miss based on various factors such as distance, weight of the object, size of the object, skill, wind speed and distance, and so on. All of that may not come to mind when you lob the wad of paper but when you miss, how often do you think “the paper was light, if I had just thrown it a little harder”? Now think about what happens after you miss. You have to get up, pick up the paper, and then throw it away (which, if you’re like me, means stepping back to try another shot). That’s wasted time. The purpose of that magical trash can is threefold: First, to remove as much human error as possible. Second, to save time by removing human error. Third, to look cool in your room. Likewise, doing all your business management on paper by hand or even on an older, slower system may have seemed like a good idea at the time but when you can make your life easier and your business more profitable with a few upgrades, why not take advantage of what technology has to offer?
If you’re in the HVAC industry chances are that you often times have to figure heat loss and gain for a job before doing any physical work. Someone probably walks around the site taking down various numbers (such as temperature, dimensions of walls, etc) before performing what may be a series of complex calculations to determine loss or gain. Part of that calculation may contain several formulas which may look something like this: DeltaT = 72F – (-5F) = 72F + 5F = 77F. While not an incredibly complex formula, how much easier is it to simply input the variables into a piece of software (read: calculator) and have it figure the values for you? Because the software is programmed to do the same thing, every time, with the numbers you feed it the room for error is made smaller or removed entirely. Remember, computers don’t make mistakes. They do exactly what we tell them to.
So what are your options? That all depends on what you’re looking for. We currently live in the mobile era where, for every question you can ask, “there’s an app for that”. If you use a Windows Phone or Blackberry or one of the more dominant systems such as iOS or Android you can bet that your platform’s marketplace has a slew of mobile apps tailored to specific needs such as Heat and Loss Calculators.
For a more robust solution you might consider looking into a desktop software application. Most offer bits and pieces here and there but there are a few that offer the complete package: Accounting, Inventory Control, Invoicing, Payroll Processing, and means to track income vs. expenses (read: Job Costing). For the craftsman among us, you can even build yourself a cheap in-car laptop mount out of PVC pipe and take your software on the road with you (think of the computer mounts in police vehicles). You can even find some that offer cross platform smartphone/tablet solution as well.
The goal of any business is to provide a service and be profitable. Using technology to that end provides a powerful and cost effective means to meet that goal. There is, of course, an initial investment involved. If you’re in the business of running a business this concept comes naturally and understandably but is well worth the cost to get started and a little research should direct you to what you need.
The last statement I have is actually just the motto that I live by: Anything worth doing is worth being taken seriously. If you take you’re going to do business, take it seriously. Make it profitable and make your employees productive to help make it so. Let technology give you the edge you need to do so.
About the Author
Chris Brown is a database migration specialist and a support technician at Aptora.