While many business owners want to find ways to create savings and cut costs, they commonly take a short-term approach that ignores the cost of things like outdated technology that introduce inefficiencies and vulnerabilities into their businesses that increase costs. It’s true newer tech is often expensive, but this failure to upgrade to new technologies means that your costs escalate in the long run. This failure to consider the long-term costs of outdated technology represents a catch-22, but in the end, you need to do what’s right for your business, not just what’s expedient today. So, here is why outdated technology could cost your business money.
How outdated technology hurts your brand
As the saying goes, “time is money,” and if you or anyone in your business is not productive, they waste time. Technology is often a large part of a business’s productivity, but outdated systems can make it difficult for companies to get the most out of their systems. For instance, old computers waste time in small increments by taking time to boot up, requiring frequent reboots, and processing tasks slowly.
Outdated equipment also doesn’t allow businesses to stay competitive with companies using newer, more efficient technology. These technologies waste minutes and could cost your business thousands of dollars yearly in lost productivity. For instance, my uncle was a lineman for the electric power utility and his job entailed inspecting transmission lines in his territory. Modern companies use IoT (the internet of things) to remotely monitor the performance of equipment, thus eliminating the high cost and inefficiencies of folks like linemen (my uncle spent as much time talking to folks along his route as he did traveling between points).
Cost of stress
Outdated technology means that you’re most likely losing money. This isn’t just in terms of lost productivity but also by losing potential customers and clients. In addition, outdated technology can cause employee morale to plummet, as employees often experience delays and problems with their work, which may prompt your best people to move on. It’s important that your employees stay comfortable and old technology is only going to make it worse. It can also affect the customer experience, as they can’t access information quickly.
If your business deals with customer or partner data, it’s your responsibility to keep their information secure. In nearly all cases, your company has information about employees that represent a risk, such as their social security number. In today’s world, cybercriminals are constantly searching for new ways to hack into your systems and steal data. If someone does manage to hack into your system, it could mean huge fines and reputational damage. This is especially true if your company handles sensitive employee or customer information.
Outdated technology is more susceptible to security breaches because it lacks the latest security features. Outdated systems are often no longer supported by the developers who made them, meaning they don’t receive security patches or updates as cybercriminals find new pathways to access your information. So, while you want to save money by using older technology, you could be putting yourself at risk, which could lead to a greater expense to pay criminals or from losing customers.
When a company’s technology infrastructure is old, maintenance costs can increase. This is because technology advances rapidly, and outdated systems are more difficult to repair. Depending on the type of technology you employ, you may not even find parts for the products when they need repair, which means downtime and an unplanned expense to replace the equipment. This means additional cost. Outdated equipment involves more than just computers but even manufacturing-based machines that focus on precision metal stamping.
Outdated systems are also more prone to crashing, which can cause downtime and damage your brand when deliveries are late. In general, know what is and is not costly to repair and maintain. The older something is, the more costly you may find it in the long run.
How upgrading to new technology creates problems
Upgrading to a new technology involves more than the cost of buying new infrastructure such as computers, machines, and robots to help your firm’s operations. Sure, these are expensive, but other problems associated with upgrading your tech might represent an even bigger challenge to your business. For instance, I once consulted with the company that made the Country Music Awards. This glass company was a business handed down from father to son for many years, and a large number of its employees had worked for the business for decades. As a family business, many of these old-time employees were like family as the kids spent time hanging out at the business during holidays. When those kids became managers, they faced the prospect of firing this pseudo-family because they didn’t have the skills needed to adapt to new technology. They used old cardboard patterns to cut the stained glass used to create custom windows for churches and other clients. Switching to a Cad-Cam system that used computers to design and then cut out the glass shapes was more than employees in their 50s and 60s could manage. Asking them to retrain is like asking someone who only used a landline to upgrade instantly to an iPhone. The same goes for employees who still make hand-blown glass the way it was done for millennia.
Another firm I did some consulting with did bite the bullet and upgraded to new technology, in this case, a computer linking the company with suppliers using an EDI (electronic data interchange) program to allow orders to automatically generate raw material orders from suppliers, schedule production and staffing, and even speed payment processing between the firms. This system is designed to reduce human error that’s inherent when orders are retyped several times for different departments and firms, speed the transmission of information, and coordinate activity.
When they showed me the system, I discovered employees were still taking orders on paper forms, which they then copied into the computer system when they had the time. I asked them why they didn’t enter orders directly into the computer system, as they were trained to do, and the answer came back that they didn’t trust the computer system. With the paper system, they had a backup of every order in case the system mishandled the order or lost it.
Fixing these problems
There isn’t an easy solution to the human problems identified above and I don’t want to make light of the impact of these issues on upgrading to help support firm success. But, there are options that can ease these problems.
Process reengineering takes a long time and you can’t rush through it. The process looks like this:
And, part of that process requires you to consider how to handle employees who aren’t ready to make the move with the company, especially if these are long-time workers. Companies that treat people as disposable create a culture that doesn’t support collaboration and can reduce efficiencies. Think creatively about how these employees might prove useful in other roles within the organization. For instance, a group of longtime CIA workers who were too old for the roles they previously played in the organization were put to good use by creating a museum celebrating the history of the CIA. The museum contains a bunch of stuff previously stored in a jumble like an old enigma machine used to encrypt text during WWII, a US seal that hid soviet-era listening devices at a US foreign embassy, and other such memorabilia. The museum, in Southern Maryland, now attracts visitors, acting as a PR tool for an agency that isn’t always viewed positively.
Gain employee buy-in
Often, problems are worse when employees are told they must adopt a strange, new technology. Even with sufficient training, there’s resistance to anything new that’s part of the human psyche. When you involve employees in making the decision to switch, it takes longer and the decision might not settle on an optimal solution, but you find less resistance among employees to adopt the change. With less friction, implementation goes faster and easier. Implementation is also more complete.
Updating old equipment is costly, but maybe not as costly as not making the upgrades as we showed in this post. However, you can’t jump into an upgrade without considering the process and people involved. Good luck as you make upgrade decisions for your business.
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