Simple guide to finding the right technology
You run a small or medium business and you’ve heard about all these new great technologies that could help you and your business. You have also been told you could save time, money, increase productivity and a range of other great things.
So you decided to make the jump and adopt new technologies, for instance the Cloud. It was not an easy decision, and you probably have some concerns – besides, you don’t necessarily feel very confident with technology.
Your first question is probably: “where do I start”? Followed immediately by: “What’s the right choice for my business”?
These are excellent questions and here is my take on some answers.
Where to start? The myth of the Sourcing Snob
In some countries, it is said that “you are never better served than by yourself ”. And although this can be true at times, it is not necessarily correct when you are approaching new technologies.
The fact that you are not an expert can lead you down complicated and expensive paths that could ultimately be detrimental to your business.
So the first thing you need to do is become familiarised with the types of technology you need for your business.
Take a look around to see what technologies, services and software are out there, how other professionals use them and how they can match your needs. I’m not sure a brand new hair dryer would be of any use for an advertising agency, to state the obvious.
And always remember – you are not alone. Your questions have probably been asked somewhere else on the web and may have been answered. Don’t be shy – google away! You will instantly find forums and websites that can help you get a better understanding of the product/s.
Once it’s all a bit clearer, you can look for your actual solutions. But don’t be a sourcing snob. A hidden, unknown website that you would have discovered by yourself after hours of research will not necessarily provide
you with better services than a provider that actually advertises and comes immediately in front of you during your search.
Think about it this way – a provider who spends money to advertise is well aware that you need a service and is actually trying to reach you. Usually it will come with a free (and risk free – double check!) trial, so that you can experience the service at no cost to make up your mind.
As I said earlier, don’t be a sourcing snob! As much as thinking outside the box is great, sometimes, just going with the obvious is a good and safe approach and those who make an effort to come to you do it for a simple reason: they generally want to help you.
Beware the fawns out there…
Having said all of the above, one of your most difficult tasks will be to evaluate the genuineness of the offerings you will find.
Be it online or offline through consulting agencies or sales representatives, you want to be careful not to accept an offer that will seem incredible at first and soon turns into a business disaster: hidden conditions, cost increases, lock-in contracts and other nasty surprises…
Be wary of the offer that promises to deliver you everything you need at once, in one product… You would not buy a coffee machine that is also a toaster and a dishwasher. Why? Because your common sense would warn you that it cannot work well.
The very same applies to an accounting software that also does customer management, inventory and payroll.
But since you are not necessarily an expert, how can you identify the good from the bad and make an informed, rational decision?
The best advice I could give here actually comes from Warren Buffet. Talking about investing when you are not an expert, Buffett advises to buy stocks in companies you know and trust as a user, consumer or client, because you are no less intelligent than anyone else and your judgement tells you if the company is doing well or not.
Of course, this is not bulletproof advice, but rather good advice to start when you don’t know how.
I would apply the same when choosing a Cloud technology for your business. Once you have done some basic research and identified what you need, set a benchmark. Ultimately you should go with the solution you feel the most comfortable with.
If details aren’t clear to you on their website or in their presentation or you feel there is a catch, then don’t go – you are probably right.
The same rule applies with the sales representatives. Nowadays, technology providers strive to present clear, hassle-free, transparent offers. If the one you are looking at is not that, then move on to another one.
Identify what is right for your business, not what is right for everybody else
It is sometimes easier and more comforting to follow the group rather than going alone in one direction, and that can be true when you need to select the right technology for your business.
Let’s say that you followed all the advice so far. You have done some basic research and have a better understanding of what you need, for instance an inventory system that is automated and simple to use.
Then, you browse online and again follow the above advice: you dismissed two of them that looked complicated and you didn’t quite understand their offering and pricing.
You found two that meet your needs and requirements and by the looks of it, one is quite new. It is specifically designed for your industry, but it doesn’t yet have lots of testimonials or customers.
The other one is a well-established player but will require a bit of customisation to fit your specific needs. You think to yourself, ‘it shouldn’t be too hard to tweak the system to get what you need it to do’. Don’t. If anything, always remember that the system is a tool to help you achieve your objectives. Not a master that drives your operations.
The first system is young, new to the market. Noted. But does it fit your needs? Yes? Then go ahead, give it a try.
The only reason why you wouldn’t is because you are not sure it’s good, as few people have used it. But you don’t need their judgement to make your own, related to your own needs and your own business.
And if you are scared about new players, you might find it interesting that Facebook had just 10 users; Google was once only used by 50 students only;
It is sometimes easier and more comforting to follow the group rather than going alone in one direction, and that can be true when you need to select the right technology for your business.’
and Apple started selling 30 computer motherboards to a small computer shop.
It may not be that the provider you choose becomes a giant. But why would you care as long as you are provided with the service you need?
Know your rights as a customer
No matter with whom you go, remember – always – that you are the customer. You are entitled to ask as many questions as need be, you aren’t the expert after all.
So don’t be shy to ask questions. Even if you think they are simple or irrelevant. Ask questions. It can be on the phone, during a face-to-face meeting, on an online chat, it doesn’t matter.
First it will reassure you and provide you with answers. But most importantly, it will prove how committed your provider is to you and how much you are valued as a customer.
You should never feel like you are a nuisance. Your technology provider should be your best support and provide you with a platform where you can find the answers you need.
As I always say to my Maestrano team, “the customers must know that online doesn’t mean alone”. The companies who endeavour to provide a real service will always try to support you to the best of their ability, online and offline.
So go ahead, don’t be afraid to choose your technology. Just ask questions, be informed and buy to suit your needs, based on your judgement and the knowledge of your business. You will soon discover that things cannot go too wrong if you just trust your instincts and use your commonsense. Stephane Ibos is CEO and co-founder of Maestrano, an innovative cloud based solutions provider aggregating the best open source applications into a seamless, secure and intuitive platform. www.maestrano.com.
Stephane Ibos is CEO and co-founder of Maestrano.