There’s nothing more satisfying than growing your business: seeing your team expand in size and confidence, boldly venturing onto cool new clients and knowing that all your blood, sweat and tears are paying off. But with big growth, comes big decisions. Getting the right people, the right business model and the right technology will all play crucial roles in how your business navigates the next stage of its journey.
An investment in technology is especially fraught because there’s no sure-fire way to tell if that large amount of money you’re about to spend will produce the desired results. It can also be hard to look past the new, the novel and the shiny to adopt a product or system that will not only solve your current problems, but anticipate future ones. The wrong investment won’t grow with your business and can derail your progress. Before making a big investment it’s worth asking these 6 questions:
1. How will the technology help to achieve the aims of the business strategy?
Don’t cave into the temptation to go with the latest and greatest. Before spending a cent, you need to revisit your business strategy, your long-term goals and establish: how can the technology get you there?
It might be overarching goals like making your office paper-free, increasing productivity and efficiency or growing the business. Or, they could be more specific like wanting to on-board 50 more clients in the next few years and opening an office in each of the three largest cities in Australia. Technology shouldn’t be held up as an expensive status symbol of your success, instead it should be quietly helping you get to where you need to be. Which leads us to the next question:
2. What is the true cost of an investment?
Contrary to popular belief, a tech investment isn’t just an initial exchange of money. Technology evolves all the time, so rather than looking at your tech investment as a one-off, you need to make peace with the idea that it’s going to be an ongoing expense of the business, or as one commentator suggests: 'treat technology like a utility.' As such, look at what the software or product provider is offering you. Consider things like:
- Do they have 24-hour support?
- Do they offer training?
- Can they offer you a customised experience?
- Can the product or platform grow with your business?
When looking at technology in your strategy, make sure you’re allocating an ongoing budget for it and incorporating potential expenses that might arise.
3. How will new systems integrate with my old systems?
Another common problem is that many sectors, (such as finance, manufacturing, government and health) will have legacy technology. In these instances it may be more viable to find technology that can integrate with the older systems and leverage the data that these systems generate to discover valuable insights. The most common technology used in this space is cloud software. Cloud technologies are attractive for a number of reasons. They’re flexible, they’re agile and they offer affordable solutions, especially for smaller businesses.
In terms of data analysis, the technology is developing to a point where it’s not only business analysts that can derive insights from the data. Data visualisation has got to a point where stakeholders throughout the business can derive a lot of value from richer data-sets on intuitive dashboards. So it also pays to think about what insights you need for your business, who will be using the technology and how the new technology can achieve that for you.
4. What is the state of your prospective tech providers?
Another important way to know whether your technology will go the distance, is to examine the companies themselves. In your initial conversations with them, have a look at:
- Their client retention rates
- Their partnerships
- Their plans for future product development
- The ongoing support they offer
- Whether their revenue model is sustainable
- The size, quality and expertise of the team
All these things will give you a sense of how the business will grow, whether their values are compatible with yours and whether they will still be around in several years. Also, don’t be scared to ask for references, so that you can get a good sense of how the technology operates in context.
5. Have you got a plan?
The end of the purchase, shouldn’t be the end of the matter. Even the most incredible technology won’t make an impact if their isn’t a great adoption plan.
As an IBM study discovered: ‘40% of IT projects fail in that they didn’t meet schedule, budget and quality goals.’ To make sure that your technology is meeting your outcomes, you need to have a strategy.
This is where a change management method can help you to navigate your team through the process, ensure that everyones on the same page and understands the benefits of the new technology, as well as the ramifications of failing to change. Change management won’t just be instrumental in helping your adoption of new technology, it will also foster an open and agile work environment that will be more receptive to innovation and new ideas.
6. How can you learn from your mistakes?
If you’ve chosen a system that hasn’t worked for whatever reason, it’s not the end of the world. Establish what went wrong, why it didn’t work and how you can resolve the problem. Mistakes are all part of the process, and it’s those willing to embrace their mistakes and adapt who will evolve.
Grow your business
We hope that the above tips will help you to pick technology that will evolve and adapt to the needs of your business. If you’d like to know more about how the latest technologies could work for your business, then you should check out the Cloud 2017 @ CeBIT program.