How do you perceive the cost of technology? Viewed one way, it's cheap. A £400 laptop is all you need to run most typical business software — and it'll do the job for at least a couple of years before it needs upgrading.
But from an alternative perspective, technology can sometimes seem like a never-ending source of expenditure.
Got a computer and a smart phone? These days, that might not be enough - you could need a tablet computer, too. And while you're at it, have you considered trialling wearable technology in your business?
Then there's the cost of maintenance and support. According to some research, businesses spend 75% of their IT budgets on maintaining existing IT.
That £400 laptop may fade into insignificance alongside the annual cost of IT support, software updates, backups … and all the other assistance you need to keep your business IT running smoothly.
In addition to these fairly obvious tech costs, your business could be paying for its IT in other ways.
These three might not show up as lines in your IT spending, but that doesn't mean you should underestimate what they're costing.
1. Duplicate effort
No matter how small your business, a significant hidden cost will arise if employees need to duplicate their efforts.
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
- Your employees need to manually copy data between different screens or software packages.
- Staff often note down figures or data manually, before entering them into the system at a later time.
- You struggle to keep track of the latest versions of documents, spreadsheets and other files.
If so, your people are wasting time performing tasks that your computer systems could be doing for you.
The cumulative impact of these inefficiencies might not show up in your IT budget, but they can cost your business dearly in terms of reduced productivity and missed opportunities.
Often, modern software packages can be connected together, or extended via add-ons which pull in data from elsewhere.
For instance, some accounting packages can pull in statements from your internet banking, so you don't have to match up transactions manually.
2. Lack of knowledge
Do you have a decent training budget for staff? Indeed, do you bother training your employees at all, or do you just assume they already know how to use advanced features of Outlook, Excel and more?
Employers tend to take IT skills for granted, particularly when it comes to using common pieces of software like Microsoft Office.
That can be a costly attitude. IT skills vary enormously in almost every business. What's more, people can use software for years without ever realising there's a better or quicker way to do something.
You can also explore on-the-job training, and get the most confident employees to pass knowledge on to their colleagues.
3. Constant distractions
Technology can be distracting. Sometimes, it can be really distracting.
When you're trying to work on your computer, you're only ever a couple of clicks from reading an interesting story on BBC News or checking for updates on Twitter and Facebook.
Before you know it, that brief distraction has become 15 wasted minutes, as you hop from interesting site to interesting site. Heck, there's a whole industry built up around attention-grabbing headlines (warning: that link may distract you).
And then there are internal distractions, like endless one-line emails debating some unimportant point and instant messages that interrupt your flow.
Throw in smart phone notifications and general office chit-chat, and it's a wonder we manage to get anything done. If time is money, wasted time is wasted money.
Having said that, coping with distractions can be hard. Different techniques work for different people, but here are some tips to reduce distractions at work.