As we close out 2018, we reflect on a year that has been a bit of a wild ride. For our customers, we clearly are leaving a period of sustained growth into more uncertain economic times. At the macro level, the economy shows competing signs of growth and contraction. Our political climate is less certain and predictable.
We Live in Uncertain Times
Economies and business climates vary by region. Taking a look at a non-scientific survey of businesses in central New England (Worcester Business Journal, Central Massachusetts Economic Forecast 2019, December 24, 2019), we get a pulse of where are are and where we may be going. We also see a new way forward for small and midsize organizations looking to weather whatever stormy or calm seas may be in our future.
- Only 35% see the economy improving in 2019, while 65% see the economy stagnating or declining in the coming year. This is a significant change from a year ago when 65% expected the economy to improve.
- While the number of business leaders who believe the economy has improved over the past year is at 77%, the number of those uncertain of our current economic health more than doubled from 7% for 2018 to 15% for 2019.
- On the positive side, the number of business leaders expecting to hire additional staff in 2019 jumped to 49% from 40% a year ago.
- At the same time, 72% of those surveyed are “very concerned” about finding qualified talent to hire, a major increase from only 50% of hiring employers a year ago.
In short, we see the economy as having improved over the past year, but are uncertain what course it will chart in 2019. Many of us plan on growing but are concerned about being able to find, hire, and retain the right people.
Charting a Course
Economic uncertainty can, and sometimes should, cause us to pause and re-evaluate our plans. We often see businesses reacting quickly and pulling the plug or delaying technology projects and changes. Often, these decisions make it more difficult for you to manage changes you want or need to make in order to adapt to a changing business climate. Here are some thoughts on evaluating technology decisions during changing or uncertain times.
- Understand What is Possible
2018 is the year in which Machine Learning, AI, and Bots came into the mainstream. These technologies can, when deployed properly, can improve operations, expand the productivity of your workforce, and mitigate operating costs.
- Remember the Cloud
Most small businesses have not yet fully adopted a cloud computing strategy. Cloud computing is a means to scale IT resources and costs to the size of your business without sacrificing features, capabilities, or security.
- Focus on Outcomes
Don’t worry about the technology, focus on the outcome. What do you want to achieve? What do you need to happen? How do you want things to be different after making a change? Understand and clearly define the endpoint, as this will drive how you define and manage the projects and changes that will get you from Point A to Point B. Let the outcome guide priorities and, subsequently, the technologies and changes needed to make a difference.
- Balance the Quantitative and Qualitative
Not all outcomes will have a specific dollar value. When deciding on outcomes, consider the near-term and long-term value to your business. Employee engagement and satisfaction improves retention. Automating repetitive tasks improves productivity. Training and support improves morale and fosters innovation.
- Consider All Opportunities
“Cut to Survive” rarely works. Look beyond quick hits and savings. Look for opportunities that: (1) reduce operating expenses; (2) improve team and individual productivity; (3) simplify your IT services; (4) differentiate your business in your markets; (5) help employees do their jobs better; (6) improve customer service and engagement; (7) empower team collaboration and innovation; and/or (8) help you better understand your business and the metrics that measure success.
Change, particularly in uncertain times, often come with increased risks. Deciding to invest or make changes is more difficult. Not doing anything, however, is a decision. It is a decision to NOT actively manage how your business moves forward; it is a decision to let external forces determine your future. How you move forward may require more thought and analysis, but continue to move forward.
We are here to help! Wondering how you can get more value from your current IT services, cloud solutions, or emerging technologies? Contact us to schedule a complementary Cloud Advisor session.