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.

Business First - - CONTENTS - by Stephane Ibos

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.

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