Thursday, July 31, 2014

How To Future-Proof Your Technology Choices

Future Proof Your Technology ChoicesWe all know that technology is improving faster than ever before. That's usually a good thing, because it means we can do more with our tools for much less effort and cost. But how do you choose the right technology now that will serve you well in the future? If you don't choose well, you might be constantly having to change to something better, or being stuck with something that keeps falling behind.

If you're constantly frustrated by the need to keep changing your technology because there's always something new around the corner, use these three guidelines to future-proof your business.

You've probably heard me say that the Internet has made our world "fast, flat and free" (and, in fact, that's the title of my book). This is a big topic, but if we narrow our focus to look just at future-proofing your technology, it boils down to three things: Cloud, Open and Subscription.

This is what I mean:

  • "Fast" means instant access to everything we want, and that means our technology should be in the Cloud.
  • "Flat" means we've broken down barriers between stuff and people, and that means choosing technology that's Open, so it can be extended and expanded by anybody (not just the original supplier).
  • "Free" means we pay less for more, and that means choosing technology that's either free or available via Subscription.

Let's look at these things in more detail, and I'll give you some specific examples ...

1. Cloud

Having your stuff in the Cloud means you have instant access to it whenever you need it. This is much better than the olden days, when you either had less flexibility or had to copy important files to a disk or USB drive if you wanted to use them in different places.

For example, if you use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, the "master copy" of your e-mail is on your PC, not in the Cloud. So you can only work effectively when you're at your PC.

On the other hand, if you use Cloud-based e-mail like Gmail or Apple Mail, the "master copy" is on the Internet, so you can access it from anywhere and whenever you have an Internet connection.

Another example: If you use MYOB for your bookkeeping, the master MYOB file is on your PC, which makes it impossible to use when you're away from your PC, and inconvenient to share with your bookkeeper or accountant. But if you use a Cloud-based system like Xero, you can access it from anywhere, and selectively give access to others as needed.

(Yes, I know MYOB now has a Cloud-based option as well)

2. Open

Having your stuff in the Cloud is a good first step, but the real power comes when it can be shared and accessed easily by others. Some technology makes this easy - and in fact encourages it - and other technology doesn't.

For example, if you use Gmail, you can increase its power by adding a whole bunch of extensions that make it work nicely with GoToMeeting, Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, MailChimp, and many other tools. Google didn't have to build all of this into Gmail; it simply provided the ability for motivated developers to do so.

Similarly, when choosing a Web browser, use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, because they are designed with an "open" philosophy, so they have a lot of extensions and plug-ins. That's a far better choice than Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari, which weren't designed with openness in mind.

3. Subscription

This is the old "rent vs buy" argument that's been around for a long time. When you're talking about assets that appreciate in value - like residential property - it can make sense to buy outright. But that's rare, and it usually makes far more sense to "rent" - in other words, to pay a subscription rather than an upfront fee. This means you never own it, but ownership is overrated.

You already pay a subscription for your mobile phone access, Web hosting, electricity, magazines, and cable TV. And you might be doing it for your phone handset, your office, and your laptop. Now consider whether you can move even more of your stuff to a subscription.

This means you not only pay less initially, but you often get automatic upgrades and support. So set aside a monthly budget for your subscriptions, and use it to finance the many subscription options now available for software, hardware and associated services.

Is your technology Cloud, Open and Subscription?

I should caution you that these aren't hard-and-fast rules! Sometimes you'll look at your technology and decide that Cloud, Open or Subscription isn't right for you for some reason. That's OK - just make sure it's a conscious decision.

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