Where Does Your Company Fit on the Technology Curve?

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If your computer room could double as a broom closet, you might need to rethink your approach to technology.

October 01, 2000

 

By Noelle Tarabulski

 

If you seek to minimize the importance of technology in your company by relegating your vital technology equipment to a small room or closet with no air conditioning, this column might interest you.

If you have avoided investing in technology, you will have to pay a higher price to get back in the game. With technology, it’s better to stay current with software, hardware and training than have to play catch-up. Allocate a budget every year and be generous with your technology investment dollars.

In this article I will outline the specific areas of technology innovation you need to assess. If you cannot objectively review your current technology status, have a qualified professional assist you. The charts indicate where a company should be operating for maximum productivity. The typical builder shown is a company that tends to be low on the technology curve. The greater the distance between where your company is operating and where it should be operating with technology, the greater the expenditure of time and money needed.

Effectiveness of Hardware Infrastructure: The infrastructure that gives you the ability to be networked and communicate with others must be fast, viable and stable. The fundamentals apply here -- if your computers are slow, do not operate the software correctly and do not back up the data correctly, you have a weak system that is holding back your company's potential.

Physical Location of Server: Must be large enough for growth, maintained at a constant temperature and humidity, and have relatively central access to the surrounding computers.

Cabling Integrity/Hubs & Switches: Secure, without damage, and with secure connections. Unstable cabling can hamper the reliability of your entire operating system and cause unusual performance. If needed, a firm specializing in computer cabling should be used to test the connections.

Network Server: The server(s) needs to be powerful enough to handle the workload, have enough memory and storage to handle growth, and have a backup system.

Network Workstations: Should have enough speed and memory to operate the latest software effectively. Monitors should be eye-friendly for your staff, and computers must operate consistently and accurately.

Effective Use of Software Applications: Are you using the most effective software tools? Have you provided your staff with the proper support and training from the software vendors? Many builders do not use the capabilities of software effectively because they do not invest in support services or allow for proper training time or instruction. It is critical that you provide the opportunity for your staff to learn, improve their skills and enhance your company’s productivity by using the business software applications available.

Software Application Licensing: It is imperative that your company has all of the necessary licenses for all of the software in use. You must comply with the latest software law. Do you know the location and amount of licenses?

Storage of Software Materials: Software diskettes, CD-ROMs and printed material need to be kept in a secure location with access limited to your system manager. It important that an inventory is kept of such material. Many companies have significant issues with the loss of such materials. How secure are your materials?

Internet Applications: Are you using any Web applications for research, communications or e-commerce? How much do you understand about this technology? If you have limited exposure and experience, it is important to become more aware of the benefits of such technology.

Skill Alignment: If a company has vastly different skill sets across the company, communication can be difficult. Just sending e-mails and attachments can be restricted. It is imperative that the team has a baseline of competency so that everyone can communicate. But also, upper management must always push the envelope and reward employees who proactively improve their skills.

Technology Skills: The president sets the technology tone. Using technology, e-mail and shared files to make decisions and communicate with others sets the expectation.

It is much more important that senior-level managers, owners and partners in smaller firms have effective technology skills. Managing a home building firm involves a great deal of coordination, communication and organization of information -- this is where technology is the biggest help.

The skill of your IT staff will set the tone of competence in your firm. If you are the IT staff, people working with you will appreciate the skills you have developed and use in your daily business life. It is critical that you, your staff or your outsourced consultant has the skills to teach, motivate and improve technology usage in your firm.

Internal System Administrative Support: These are the people who help you use technology and greatly affect your ability to work through frustrating issues. Sometimes technology problems can put you at a standstill -- to the point that people give up. It is important that you find a source of high-level expertise to work through these issues.

External System Engineering Support: The people who have to make it all work need to be experts. The best systems engineers are well-versed in adversity and technology challenges, and they tend to love what they do. It is important that they have a track record of success. Many times I recommend to clients that they have a local vendor that plays quarterback when needed. Good systems engineers can work through issues from the sidelines but can jump in if your company needs added support because of software changes, networking issues and hardware improvements.

Where does your company fit on the curve? The first challenge in solving any problem is knowing that you have a problem. Once you assign your management efficiency level to each of these areas, you can begin to address the changes you need to make to be an effective technology innovator. Tell me the good news at PB@buildertools.com.

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