With new technologies coming onto the market every day –all of them promising to change the way you do business forever– it can be hard to separate the real gems from the ones that just aren’t going to deliver. And yet, most small and large businesses understand that failing to adopt game-changing technologies can cause them to get left behind by their competitors or disappoint their clients. The next time you're considering a new technology, here are some key questions to ask yourself and the provider before you commit.
What are you trying to accomplish?
If you’ve actively gone out looking for a technology to solve an existing problem for you, it’s important that you have it clear in your mind exactly how you want the technology to help you. Salespeople will naturally and understandably want to impress you with all the amazing features of their technology, so you need to have your own checklist of functions you want the technology to perform for you. Write it down, and make sure you get clear answers on every aspect.
What’s their customer service like?
Implementing any new technology can be difficult, and the last thing you want is to be abandoned the second you’ve parted with your money. Take some time to investigate the company’s reputation and reviews online, and note any red flags. Ask whether they offer training, if this is included in the purchase or rental fee, and what the process of getting ongoing support when you need it is.
What’s a reasonable budget, and can they demonstrate what your ROI will be?
Before you set out looking for a provider, or if an interesting new technology has come to your attention, consider how much you're reasonably willing to spend for the solutions the technology offers. Granted, it’s human nature to underestimate how much things are going to cost, but it will at least give you a rough idea. Spend some time going over the numbers and working out how much money the tech could save you, or how much it could realistically boost your income. Now ask the provider or suppliers you're considering if they can demonstrate what your expected return on investment might be. If your numbers and theirs are dramatically different, it should set off some warning bells.
Can the technology scale with you?
You might only need a very basic solution now, but what about in three years’ time when you have more staff and more customers to serve? This is especially important with vital day-to-day technologies like office equipment and pbx services, where you want to be able to upgrade easily from a small or medium business to enterprise solution quickly and easily without the hassle of trying to find a new provider.
What do your employees have to say?
Including your employees as much as possible in the final decision is always a good idea, especially if they're the ones who’re going to have to learn the new technology and use it every day. Involve them in the process from the get go by making sure you know what their pain points are, what bottlenecks they encounter, or what tasks take up the most of their time. Make it clear you're trying to help them too, and that you value their input. Ask what they think about the potential solutions you’ve come up, and if they know of any other alternatives which might not even have occurred to you. Let some of your managers sit in on any presentations, ask questions, and get their honest feedback afterwards.
Have you considered all the alternatives?
Let’s face it, we’ve all been blinded by a brilliant salesperson from time to time! Someone who swoops in and makes you believe that their solution is going to completely transform your company, rake in massive profits and solve every problem you’ve ever encountered. No matter how impressive their sales department might be, it’s always a good idea to take a moment to revisit what your goals in the beginning were, and not just go with the first solution before you at least investigate a few alternatives. ‘Sleep on it’ is good advice in business too.
Remember that tech can’t make up for poor processes
There’s no technology on earth that can make up for deeper underlying problems in a business. Technology should make your existing processes faster and more efficient, and help your employees accomplish their tasks more easily – but you still need to focus on getting the basics right first.
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