Sometimes purchasing new technology for your business can be like embarking into alien territory. A copy machine doesn’t just make copies anymore. What happens when the bells and whistles you bought don’t work right?
Here are some things to think about to make buying small business technology a little easier.
What makes technology purchases different from other business purchases?
Typically the types of items purchased aren’t a component of a company’s revenue generation model – printers, copiers, phones. Consequently, there’s little internal knowledge about all of the issues and decision points. Many of these items involve multiple decisions on how they will be installed and configured, and their purchase is often treated as an afterthought.
The office manager or employee designated to investigate these purchases will usually rely more heavily on the salesperson to help them make the best decision. The ROI on these types of technology purchases doesn’t often justify bringing in a consultant to conduct an investigation into what would work best for the company.
Getting what you want requires thinking through how the new technology will fit into or impact your business processes.
What technology might a growing business purchase?
Examples of these items would include copiers, software applications, PCs and telephone systems. Using a copier as an example, decisions concerning whether to include faxing, scanning or network printing must be made. Then, more decisions must be made concerning user configuration.
What kinds of problems are encountered with new technology?
Problems can occur with configuring these technologies to fit within your business processes or understanding the opportunity for improving existing processes.
• Using the fax capability of a new copier – Find the proper method for handling inbound faxes, given how you currently do work. Options include whether to deliver the fax to an e-mail, paper, a network share, or some combination. All employees need to be trained to use the new copier and its process.
• Software applications – Make sure the implementation will support existing business processes. If changes to business processes are necessary, work them out in advance or find out after-the-fact that there’s a problem and then manage the solution under pressure.
• Telephone system – Make sure the quotes from the phone vendors include the capabilities they demonstrated to you. Phone systems include a multitude of capabilities and associated options, resulting in significant variations in cost. It can be problematic if the vendor does not engage to understand how you do business and how you need to use the new system to communicate.
How do you avoid these problems?
The best way to avoid problems is simply to understand your needs and the impact specific technologies can have on your business. Ask for help if you’re not getting straightforward, easy-to-understand answers. It helps to visualize what you want your world to look like after the technology is installed. Communicate that clearly to your vendors.
When dealing with vendors, it is important to understand that they are in it to close the sale, not to spend a lot of time on the installation/implementation.