Spice up the tech side of your business in 2009.
If you are like most advisors I've spoken with recently, the end of 2008 could not have come soon enough. Rather than dwell on a recent past that we'd rather all forget, I'd prefer to view 2009 as a clean slate and a fresh beginning. Although I intend to discuss the future, not the past, I cannot ignore the fact that technology budgets might be a bit tighter in 2009 and demands on advisors' time will be great; therefore, most of these suggested resolutions are rather modest.
1: Resolve to continue spending on technology
According to a recent Forrester Research survey, more than half of U.S. consumers plan to cut back on technology spending this year. Don't follow their lead. The typical advisory firm was spending too little on technology even before the latest market crisis was upon us. According the 2008 FPA Practitioner Technology Report: Leveraging Technology Solutions, 48% of respondents said they were spending between 0% and 5% on technology. The 2008 Moss-Adams study, based upon 2007 fiscal year numbers showed that the average participant in the study spend only 1.1% of revenue on software and just 0.3% of revenue on hardware. That's just not enough. In 2009 it will be more important than ever to operate efficiently. Leverage technology to help improve your operational efficiency.
2: Resolve to spend your technology budget wisely
Even small technology investments can pay big dividends. A 2008 research project at the University of Utah confirmed something that I've been telling readers and consulting clients for years: Increased screen space, in the form of dual monitors or a single larger monitor, can significantly improve productivity. The study found that moving from single 18-inch traditional-format monitors to 24-inch widescreen displays reduced the time it took to complete a task from 8 hours to 5-1/2 hours. Over the course of a year, that translates to a savings of up to 76 days in production, or about $8,600 per employee (based on a $32,500 annual salary; for people with higher salaries, the savings is greater) assuming that multiple applications or windows are being displayed all the time.
A small investment in a better keyboard and mouse can also pay immediate dividends. In addition to a productivity increase, you'll also find that employees are happier and healthier.
3: Resolve to save money by using some free (or very inexpensive) productivity applications
I've written numerous times about inexpensive, or in some cases free, technologies that come in very handy. Let me just highlight a few for you. One free service I use regularly is GOOG-411. This free information service from Google allows you to dial a toll-free number (1-800-GOOG-411) and search for any business phone number from any phone. If you know the name of the business, just tell GOOG-411, and it will locate the business and even connect you for free. If you don't know the name of the specific business you want, GOOG-411 can still help. Let's say you want to order a pizza from your current location. GOOG-411 will list the nearest pizzerias, and connect you so that you can place your order. I find Google's service to be better than that of the phone company, but best of all, it's free.
I've written in the past about Evernote, but now, with the online version that synchronizes with your smart phone, the program can do much more. Need to save someone's contact information? Take a photo of the business card with your phone and upload it to the Evernote site. Enjoy a bottle of wine at the restaurant? Take a photo of the label so you'll remember it in the future.
Jott, another perennial favorite, still offers a free version, but I think the regular paid version, at $3.95 per month, is the way to go. Jott allows you to send an unlimited number of text messages or e-mail messages to individuals or groups by simply talking into your phone. It is great for reaching a team of people with short notes, perhaps to schedule a meeting or to notify your child's soccer team of a time and a place for a practice. It is also great for sending yourself short reminders notes and to-dos. I don't use Jott nearly as often as I should, but when I need it I am so very happy that I have it. For about the cost of a cup of coffee, you can increase your productivity for a month.
4: Resolve to try a Web browser other than Internet Explorer if you have not already done so
As recently as 2002, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser could claim a 95% market share. It has been falling ever since. According to the research firm Net Applications, in May 2008, Internet Explorer's share had fallen to 74%; by December 2008 it was down to 68%. There's a reason that Microsoft has lost market share: competing products are more flexible, they're faster, and they are more secure.