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How to Stay On Top

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Technology is opening up new markets and opportunities for growing businesses and is helping to level the playing field between small and large firms.  However, many companies today are only using technology to support their day-to-day business needs and not fully utilising it as an integral part of their business and marketing strategy.

This was a key area of conversation at the 2012 Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) in New Delhi and throughout the conference I heard a lot of helpful advice from entrepreneurs and experts on how you can get the most out of your business using technology.  During a panel entitled “Backroom to Boardroom - Making Tech a Strategic Advantage,” experts including Dell’s own CIO Adriana Karaboutis, Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, Sushma Rajagopalan, the Managing Director of LiquidHub and Carley Roney, co-founder and chief content officer of XO Group, Inc. (formerly The Knot, Inc.) shared their experiences.

Below are the top three pieces of advice that really stood out to me:

Position technology at the center of your business

Putting technology at the center of discussion can be a huge competitive advantage for your company.  Carley Roney realized this firsthand when her media content company was in its beginning stages.  She hired a technologist with the intention that he would just handle the company’s servers and webpages, but quickly learned that his value extended well beyond the IT room. Realising that she wanted him to be more a part of their team, one day Carley invited him to sit in on a meeting.  During the meeting he noticed that the company’s method of operation could be entirely digitalized, and he ended up completely innovating the way the conducted business. As a result, technology is no longer an afterthought for Roney when she is looking to streamline operations – It is the main criterion.

Create a culture of sharing between your business and technology personnel
After seeing the huge benefit of bringing in her company’s technologist to business meetings, Carley Roney figured she would try doing the same with her business teammates.  Whenever anyone complained about how long something was taking with the company’s technology, she would send them down to one of the tech meetings, creating a constant trade.  So unlike the other media companies out there, which have their handful of tech people, her company is comprised almost entirely of tech savvy people. 

Stay on top of tech trends
In the rapidly changing world of technology, staying up-to-date with current tech trends is essential.  The panelists highlighted four of the major evolving trends crucial to companies as being social media, the consumerization of IT, cloud computing and big data. 

Social Media:  Sushma Rajagopalan, whose company LiquidHub is a global management and technology consultancy focused on fueling business transformation, relies on social media to fuel her company’s data analysis and hiring processes. With its real-time insight capabilities, Twitter gives Rajagopalan great marketing mileage, and allows her to easily communicate with all of the analysts in her industry.

Consumerization of IT:  Though it used to be that employees were told which computers, phones, etc. they had to use for work, this is no longer proving to be the case. Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, noted this, saying that because our personal lives and our work lives are merging so much, people no longer want to have separate devices for personal and professional use.

Cloud Computing:  As software has become a service element of the cloud, it has become easier for large corporations to scale, allowing them to more efficiently change the amount and types of software they provide their employees.

Big Data: With 10 billion devices connected to the Internet worldwide, we’re now into the zettabytes with regards to how much data we’re using.  This poses the challenge of how we can take that vast volume of data and turn it into information that people and businesses can use.  Solving such a problem is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, and it’s something that businesses need to stay on top of.

(Ingrid Vanderveldt is Dell Entrepreneur in Residence)