Choose Your Technology Wisely
Whether you’re a new or existing business the technology you choose (ie: hardware, software, apps etc.) can have a huge impact on your efficiency and effectiveness. However, as time is also very precious when you’re running a business (and the range of options are often numerous and confusing) spending extra time researching to find the right technology can often become a low priority. As a result we can simply choose technology that we’re familiar with, follow someone else’s recommendations without researching first, choose the cheapest option or get caught up in the hype of the latest items. But as choosing the right technology can impact on the success of your business here are some key questions to help you make the right choices.
What do you need it for?
A very simple question but also a very powerful one because knowing the exact answer makes it simpler to choose between the different options, so be very clear about this before you start looking at anything. For example, if I need a simple accounting program that allows me to issue invoices, calculate BAS and run a couple basic reports then choosing a more advanced program with lots of features doesn’t make sense, especially if this means spending more money on features I don’t need or a lot of time learning how to use it.
How will you use it?
Similar to the above this is just as important because knowing this will help ensure that you choose something that will fit your business. For example, do you need software that can be used by multiple people or one individual, will different staff have access to different parts in line with their roles and responsibilities, will you need desktops or tablets (ie: how mobile is your business) or will it be a mix of both, will the software require a particular type of hardware to run it, etc. Make a list of every task in your business (eg: issuing invoices, sending bulk emails to clients, ordering products, etc.) to identify every area where you need to use technology and include your staff in the process, as they may highlight something you’ve missed in regards to their roles or the business in general.
How easy is it to use?
Technology is a little like clothing – you need to try it on first to see if fits, especially as we all have individual preferences for how something should work, as well as the particular needs of our businesses. For example, some people like lots of features whereas others prefer a basic interface (with maybe an option to add extra features as they need to) some businesses need something that will integrate it into existing systems or have the ability to grow with them as their business expands. Before you invest in any technology test it out first in store and speak to others who already use it in their businesses. When something is easy to use (as well as suited to the purpose) then it’s more likely to be used often and your business will gain maximum benefit from your investment in it.
Have you considered all the options?
The range of choices available now with technology can sometimes make it very confusing and that’s why it’s important to be clear about what you need before you start looking. It’s also why taking the time to consider all the options makes good sense, so that you don’t miss out on something that could be perfect for your needs. Talk to fellow business owners in your industry about what they use, browse online and in store and speak to the experts (as in addition to letting you know what’s available they can also help highlight better ways to use it, how it will integrate into your existing systems and any new innovations coming soon that may be worth waiting for). Choose the best option from everything currently available rather than making a quick decision based on the options you know right now.
Are you choosing dollars over performance?
Budget is an important consideration (especially when you have limited funds) but you also need to consider what the technology will deliver in terms of value to your business. For example, does it save time so that you can focus more on income generating activities (eg: sales and marketing) will it save on staff costs because you don’t need to employ as many people, will it ensure retention of your existing clients because it helps to provide a seamless customer experience, etc. If funding the new technology is difficult at this stage in your business ask if there is an option to start at a more basic level and add to it later, however, make sure that transitioning to a more advanced setup in the future will be an easy process and isn’t going to cost you unexpected time and money.
Have you fallen in love with the latest thing?
There’s something very attractive about the latest innovations in technology and I have to admit I’ve found it challenging at times to resist something new. However, sometimes the latest thing isn’t always the right choice or it makes sense to wait until any potential teething issues with the new technology are sorted out. As technology can also change quite rapidly it’s sometimes good to wait a little while (especially if you’re aware there might be a more suitable option coming out soon). Having the latest technology can be very exciting but try not to get too distracted by the hype, as sometimes the most simple systems are all you need to do the job right.
How much technology do you really need?
It can be very easy to add lots of technology into your business, even if it’s something as simple as having lots of apps on your phone, but make sure that everything you have serves a vital purpose and that you’re not spending time maintaining and updating multiple systems when one really good one would do. Equally there are some tasks you may still prefer to do the old fashioned way. For example, a paper diary may work just as well as an electronic one (particularly if you don’t need other people to have access to your calendar). Sometimes choosing the right option for your business when it comes to technology may mean not choosing it at all if the traditional systems work better for you.
Are you the right person to do this?
Researching the right technology for your business may not be something you’re good at, your time may be used better elsewhere or you may simply not want to do it. Rather than spending time procrastinating or rushing through it just to get it done consider outsourcing it to someone else (just make sure they’re the right person for the job and someone who completely understands your business needs). Since the technology you choose can impact on how well your business performs (and ultimately your bottom line) the person you choose to rely upon has a very important task to do.
Who will install it?
This is a stage of the process that can sometimes be overlooked and yet installing something new can take considerable time (especially when you’re inexperienced with it) so unless it’s very easy to do, confirm if the installation is included in the purchase price (or can be arranged for a fee). To ensure that the new technology is used effectively (either hardware or software) will probably also require some training for yourself and your staff, so again check if this is provided or arrange it. Ensuring there is a plan for implementing new technology into your business will help to minimise any downtime and make the most of your investment.
What if you don’t have a choice?
Sometimes there are limited options available for a specific type of business or if you’re part of a larger organisation such as a franchise then there could be a requirement to use standard systems. For very specific types of businesses it may also make sense to have something customised particularly for your needs. If you’re part of an organisation where standard systems are a requirement, then you may still be able to choose which sections you use, providing they’re not required as part of your agreement or compliance related. There may also be the ability to customise some sections or suggest items to be considered for future development.
Technology is like everything else in your business it needs to be performing well to help you operate efficiently and effectively. Stay objective when you’re reviewing your options, be clear about what you need it for, assess all the options, make sure there is a plan for implementing it and when it’s no longer serving it’s purpose (or creating problems) review it. And on a final note, the above applies to all of your personal technology too so make sure you take this opportunity to review it as well.
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