Last Updated Jun 13, 2011 8:44 PM EDT
Chances are good you're not headed to Hogwart's any time soon, but there's enough technology floating around that can make you feel like you deserve a place next to Harry Potter. It's easier than ever to book a reservation at your favorite restaurant, for instance, but if you're looking to put that magic to work, here are ten technologies that can change the way your business operates. You may be using some of these already, while dragging your feet on others. If you continue to do so, you run the risk of your competitors harnessing the magic to use against you.
Speech recognition software isn't anything new: what's new about it is that it finally works. Dragon has been a leader in the field for years now, but the technology is finally hitting its stride. With the addition of an iOS app, you can capture content on the go, wherever you are.
Let's get this out of the way: if you're using a Bluetooth headset on the street, people might think you're a crazy person. If you're in your office or car, however, you need to be hands-free. More states are requiring drivers to adopt the technology but the real benefits show up when you're in your office. If you're still holding a phone, multi-tasking becomes incredibly difficult. Go wireless and you can get to work while the person on the phone tries to talk your ear off.
It seems like most people are already using Skype, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. It's not as good as meeting in the same room, but Skype's video chat allows you to get face time with your contacts for the low, low price of free.
Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots
With the advent of personal hotspots running on cellular networks, it's no longer an option to blame spotty wireless connections for an inability to connect. Throw one of these in your laptop bag and you'll always be able to connect, even if no one else (including your competitors) can.
Wherever you are, you need to be able to get to your files. Dropbox lets you get to everything, from any computer. You can also share files between members of your team (making version control much easier) and also send them out to clients and partners. With Dropbox, you can be 100% sure you've got everything you need, 100% of the time. It's a far cry from the days when we all struggled to remember which floppy disk held what.
What Dropbox does for your files, Evernote can do for those little notes you just need to capture throughout the day. Whether you type them into the desktop app, mobile app, or hand-write an old-fashioned note and take a picture of it, Evernote lets you search all those small pieces of information. Once you've figured out a system that works for you, you'll never lose a phone number again.
No one likes a micromanager, but there are times you wish you could have not only an overview of what's going on in your organization, but also an easy way to check out everyone's to-do list and whether or not internal milestones are being met. Basecamp's project management tools give you those abilities, while also letting you assign tasks to people outside of your organization. It's complex enough to allow you to keep all the information critical to a project in one place, but still simple enough that the less-tech savvy people on your team can pick it up easily.
If you've got people under the age of 30 on staff, chances are good they're already using this during the workday, but if your company uses Gmail, you can start using Gchat for things other than planning post-work drinks. The instant messaging service is great for the things that don't warrant a phone call or e-mail, and the ability to save chats creates a searchable database that can cut down on those "Hey, what's the wireless password for the guest network?" discussions we all love so much.
The first time you travel with an iPad, you realize why it has to be part of your toolbox. It's an incredibly portable way to check your e-mail, review documents and (contrary to what a good number of critics say) you can use it as a content creation device. If you need to do work on an airplane, the iPad insures you're going to get looks of envy, rather than the anger you'd get from your neighbor while you try to use your monster laptop on the tray table.
It's time. Buy a Mac already. For years, popular knowledge held that Macs were for creatives and PCs were for business, but that's changing drastically. As technology from desktop applications to the online space, the technical specifications of your machine become less important. The most important thing will always be whether or not your computer works (and whether it helps you do work) and you aren't going to find many more reliable machines out there.
We have technology available to us now that we could not have imagined ten years ago. You might not be able to keep up with a certain young wizard, yet, but there's definitely enough to make some magic happen for your organization.
Flickr photo courtesy bark/CC 2.0