The economy is on a downward trajectory -- and yet many small and midsize businesses are continuing to invest in technology. Why? Because technology can serve as a powerful driver of productivity and growth, even when times are tough.
In the Q4 2018 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, which polled 1,257 CEOs from small and midsize businesses, leaders identified productivity as a top decision-making priority (No. 3) for 2019. More than half (52 percent) of CEOs surveyed said they are willing to invest between 1-4 percent of their revenue on technology. Only 12 percent said they would not invest in business applications at all this year.
Not all technology investments reap the same productivity returns. Our research suggests that CEOs should leverage technology in these four areas to gain a productivity boost.
1. Enhance customer service
It's no accident that some of the fastest-growing companies also have some of the highest-rated customer service. To enhance your customer service, it's worth investing in artificial intelligence tools that can help automate simple tasks and free up your talent to deal with more complex customer problems.
You might also explore whether it's time to upgrade your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to improve how you serve customers. In our survey, nearly half (44.6 percent) of CEOs identified CRM as their top area of investment for business software and applications this year.
2. Improve manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing companies, in particular, can experience a tremendous productivity boost from technology that automates low-level tasks or even performs low-skill jobs. Not only does this accelerate processes within the company, but it opens up opportunities for workers to transition to more complex or interesting roles with greater responsibilities. It also leads to better quality control, smoother processes and greater employee satisfaction -- all factors that improve productivity.
3. Boost sales outcomes.
There's a whole host of applications that can streamline your sales processes, analyze your sales cycle and automate procedures that were once performed manually. These applications can improve your closing rates while also freeing up your sales teams to dedicate more time and attention to high-value clients.
4. Strengthen cybersecurity.
If you think your business isn't at risk for a cyber attack, you're wrong. In our survey, 27 percent of CEOs said they experienced a cyber attack in the past year, up 3 points from Q4 2017. Considering that a single cyber attack could shut down your company for days, destroy precious data, and result in huge losses of time and money, investing in a cyber defense tool is a wise choice. Indeed, 30 percent of the CEOs we surveyed say they will invest in cybersecurity this year.