In today’s world of business, we’re all familiar with the customer’s “need it now” mentality. Most of us have that mentality ourselves.

Investing in technology can help you move faster and deliver on those expectations. But many people get stuck in the “if it works, don’t fix it” mindset. And let’s face it, system modernization projects can be costly, time-consuming and disruptive to everyday operations.

Remember the fiasco that Southwest Airlines was in over the recent holiday season? Thousands of people became stranded at airports all over the country, and Southwest had no immediate solutions. If reports are to be believed, the whole ordeal was caused by antiquated systems. The engine holding the airline together was, essentially, the tech equivalent of duct tape and twine. You can bet that they’ll be investing more in the technology required to handle current operations, but at a great cost to their reputation.

Southwest – an otherwise successful and admired company – learned a painful lesson that ought to be instructive to companies in every other industry, including promotional products.

There are many problems that can arise from underinvesting in technology. Let’s talk about some of the costlier ones.

Losing Customers To The Competition

This one is obvious. In our own industry, we need to be timely. Getting a quote to a potential client in an urgent manner can be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. And if it’s easier to order with a competitor than from you, that can also sway potential clients to someone else.

Productivity Takes A Hit

As devices age, they tend to run more slowly and crash more often. This takes a toll on our productivity as individuals, obviously. But spread the same issue across several people, dozens or hundreds of employees, the negative consequences of that lost productivity can become exponential.

We have all watched our computer’s hourglass icon empty its sand, turn over and repeat the process for what feels like an eternity. Maybe you have been on the phone while this is happening, asking a client to bear with you because your computer is being slow today. How uncomfortable!

Newer products and programs are built with integration in mind. Do you really want to enter the same data two or three times in different programs? Even if you did have the time for that, think of the errors that can occur.

You’re Vulnerable To Security Threats

Older hardware and software programs lack critical security updates that keep the user and the company safe. Sure, some will offer updates and patches, but at some point they all become a muddled mess. Is it really worth keeping an older version of Windows in order to stay compatible with your 12-year-old graphics program or your 10-year-old version of QuickBooks?

Duct tape and twine can make for effective patches in a pinch. But that only gets you so far. We know all too well how important security is – or should I say the lack of security. We risk compromised credit cards, virus attacks and computer crashes that can cripple a business.

Now that you see what can happen when technology is neglected, let’s highlight what you should try to do to stay ahead of the curve:

Be agile: Focus on being able to respond to changing demands of clients to support growth. Remember, Southwest Airlines was not agile; it not only encountered a crisis that will take time to come back from, but it’s probably also impacting their ability to grow. The company estimates that its holiday snafus cost it upward of $825 million.

Many people have a Plan B, but what about Plan C, Plan D and so on?

Take time to learn: Since the world changes at the speed of light, you must always be learning to stay up to date with technological developments and new concerns.

Take advantage of trainings and education sessions. Listen to relevant podcasts, and talk to your friendly competitors. Chances are they are facing the same challenges and may be willing to help.

Make plans: It can be painful to undergo upgrades, but once you do you will reap the benefits. Remember, there are costs to investing in technology as well as costs to not investing in technology. Take time to look at what will happen if you invest, as well as what will happen if you don’t.

My advice? Set aside the money, hire the right people, and don’t derail yourself by inaction.

DiNicola is the digital transformation manager at PPAI.