Amid technology evolution, Northern Nevada businesses focused on investing in tech
RENO, Nev. — For Scott Pruneau, CEO of ITS Logistics in Sparks, the amount of technology available for a business to invest in is not unlike being at an endless buffet. A company could take a heaping of hardware, a serving of software, extra helpings of IT staff, and every tech bite in-between.
“You’ve got everything you want, but how do you decide what you’re going to eat?” Pruneau said in a phone interview with the NNBV. “If you don’t make a decision, you end up eating everything and feeling terrible. It’s hard to choose because there are so many different ways you could go.”
“Even in our supply chain business, we could let ourselves get distracted by a million things that are cool and look like they’re great. But if it takes you away form our core vision, purpose and competencies, it can be really distracting.”
Indeed, with technology’s rapid evolution, companies have to keep up to speed by spending on tech — from upgrading outdated IT infrastructure to putting increased priority on IT projects.
“It’s critical,” Pruneau said of investing in tech. “I think the marketplace dictates that companies get more efficient at what they do. And if you’re not leveraging technology to improve processes or connect with customers or using tools to make yourself the most safe partner, then you’re losing ground to the competition — and potentially profitability.”
According to AMR Research, the average small and midsized business spends 6.4 percent of its annual revenue on IT expenses. Further, most companies — of all sizes — expect their IT budgets to either grow or stay the same in 2019, with 42 percent expecting a 20-percent jump on average, according to Spiceworks’ 2019 State of IT.
In terms of how IT budgets will be allocated in 2019, Spiceworks reports that hardware (33 percent), software (29 percent) and hosted/cloud-based services (21 percent) make up the majority of the pie. Specifically, the bulk of budgets will go toward desktops, mobile devices, operating systems, online/backup recovery and managed hosting.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Still, Pruneau said ITS Logistics makes sure it doesn’t let technology dictate the direction the company goes. Instead, the third-party logistics company has a strategic plan — centered on efficiency, innovative solutions and safety — and then applies the technology to those initiatives.
For example, on the efficiency side, ITS Logistics has invested in tech systems to better coordinate its warehouse picking. Meanwhile, in terms of safety, the company utilizes driver technology such as lane assist and adaptive cruise control to improve the safety of its truck drivers.
“Some companies are built around the technology, where they’re like, OK, we’re going to be in this space and wherever it takes us, it takes us,” he said. “We have a specific direction where we’re going and we need to know how technology plays in that space and plan for what we’re spending in that investment.”
To that end, Erin Krug, director of global process management at Microsoft’s Operations Center in Reno, said it’s crucial that companies use technology as a competitive advantage, rather than a shortcut or Band-Aid.
“You have to look at the process as a whole, and design and optimize the process, then build the tech solution with it,” Krug explained. “As in, this is eventually what we want the experience to be, and then building a plant to work toward it, so you’re not just doing a short-term fix. Because it can be expensive — you could be investing in one (tech solution) and then two years later you realize you have to regroup and do a whole other solution.
“So, instead, something that is larger that you can grow into so that every change you’re making is a step in the right direction.”
BUILDING A TECH CULTURE
With that in mind, Grand Sierra Resort in Reno is responding to the tech evolution by investing in several new projects, said Rod Luck, senior vice president of IT at GSR. He said most of them are focused on the resort’s communication with its guests, from mobile check-in to texting for towels to mobile checkout, among other services.
“It’s an evolving technology where communication is the most important thing with our guests,” Luck told the NNBV. “If you want to be the best you have to have the latest technology, and we’re always looking at new ways to service the guest by utilizing technology.”
Luck said GSR has also investing in a revamped website that it plans to launch in the coming weeks.
“Technology drives the business, and all kinds of businesses, and you’ve got to keep up with the competition,” he said.
And with tech options abound, businesses are finding that their entire staff — not just the IT departments — has to harness a diverse set of tech skills. This means businesses, in order to keep up, need to allocate for frequent employee training throughout the year, Krug said.
“Hiring a bunch of people that can bury their head in the sand for a year and then get training every once in awhile doesn’t work,” she added. “You have to build it into the culture. This whole thing is changing on how we use data and technology. We use to have these IT departments and they specialized in a couple things. Really, everyone needs to know technology and everybody has to be trained on it.”