When running a small business, you need technology to provide the best investment return. While your operations might not demand the most feature-packed tools, you want quality equipment and applications. Reliable technology supports your company in producing good results. The number of tech options you have to choose from can be overwhelming.
Selecting the right solutions for your business is often more critical than the solutions themselves. Whether it’s time to evaluate internet equipment, payment processing systems, or cybersecurity software, a dependable set of guidelines can help. Below are some recommendations for approaching technology selection for your small business.
1. Determine Your Company’s Needs
To find the right technology, it helps to start with the basics. You wouldn’t search for a new home without listing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms your family requires. The same applies to small business owners searching for tech equipment and applications.
It’s best to think of technology as a tool to help your company accomplish its goals. Focus on what that tool needs to do to get you there. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted by features and functions you’ll rarely put to use. Before you evaluate your options, try putting your company’s and customers’ requirements down on paper. Ask what the tools you select should accomplish and how they’ll make your business more competitive, productive, or efficient.
For example, a business that sells Wi-Fi solutions to subscribers must purchase equipment to deliver those services. When comparing Wi-Fi equipment suppliers, the owner may want to focus on ease of use and efficient installation. Equipment that’s simple for customers to install without a technician’s assistance reduces the company’s overhead. As a result, the owner can invest more of the business’s resources in delivering superior speeds and bandwidth.
2. Consider the Solution’s Lifecycle
Most technology, if not all, goes through a predictable lifecycle. A new device or software app gets developed and launched. It starts to catch on and eventually reaches its peak. After that, the device or software solution declines as people abandon it for the next big thing. At some point, what was once a new development is retired from the market or repurposed.
Choosing the right tech solutions for a business means considering its expected lifecycles. Depending on the technology in question, that lifecycle may be relatively long or short. Word processing software has evolved, but it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. However, devices like desktops have been losing their appeal for years.C
Planning the adoption, use, and retirement of IT resources is known as lifecycle management, and it can make a difference. Your business should probably avoid choosing a solution that won’t be around or useful in six months. However, the equipment you can get three to four years of use is a sound investment. Likewise, you want technology that will integrate with what you don’t plan on replacing or upgrading.
3. Involve Employees in the Process
Your employees will be using and supporting the tech solutions you choose. Because they’re on the front line, staff members often have critical insights to bring to the table. For instance, employees might know about customers’ pain points related to the business’s equipment and software. They may also have specific technical expertise to help shape your selection criteria.
A device or software program that’s clunky or makes it harder to perform job tasks will become an underused resource. Plus, it might become a liability if it causes problems with customer service or product quality. Taking employees’ inputs into account can help prevent this. Implementing a solution that looks great to you on paper will do little good if employees can’t understand it. Implementing a solution that looks great to you on paper will do little good if employees can’t understand it.
But even if a piece of software or equipment is easy to grasp, staff members still need ongoing training. There will usually be a feature that flies under the radar or doesn’t get used to its full potential. Initial or ramp-up training and support is a great way to help ensure employees take the best advantage of tech investments. However, providing refresher courses is often just as important. Designating employees to test, investigate, and specialize in certain programs and devices also gives staff a means of internal support.
4. Perform a Cost-Benefit Analysis
A cost-benefit analysis can determine whether it makes financial sense to invest in a piece of technology. Conventional wisdom tallies acquisition costs and subtracts them from expected financial gains or revenues. However, you can also find ways to include qualitative or intangible benefits by quantifying them.
A new software program will increase employee job satisfaction and reduce turnover. You could calculate the costs you’d save by not having to hire and train their replacements. Other associated expenses might include the loss of customers or reduced customer satisfaction levels.
Running a cost-benefit analysis is one way to determine whether the advantages of new tech outweigh its costs. When analyzing these factors, it’s helpful to consider the costs and benefits of the technology’s expected lifecycle. For example, a laptop you have used for four years may require some upgrades or replacements. Determine estimates for these expenses during the entire four years to make your analysis more accurate.
The Right Technology for Small Business
As a small business owner, you want technology that delivers results. But it helps to remember that the right tech isn’t always the latest development to hit the market. Technology that benefits your company the most involves scalable solutions that are simple to use and understand. A selection process that includes business needs, lifecycles, employee insights, and cost-benefit analyses can lead you to the correct solutions.