Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Manage Your Technology Requirements

On the one hand, no one would argue that technology is essential when it comes to running and growing a business. But on the other hand, according to John McDougall, founder and president of the full-service Internet marketing agency McDougall Interactive, if you fail to take a restrained and analytical approach when acquiring technology solutions, you could end up negatively impacting your bottom line.
 
There are some amazing software tools and products on the market, mentioned McDougall, also author of Web Marketing On All Cylinders. However, small business owners can wander into trouble by signing up for every fad that crosses their paths, often telling themselves that they’ll get around to cancelling after the initial free trial—which doesn’t always happen. “Consequently, if you don’t put the right checks and balances in place, the tools that are supposed to help your profitability could kill it through dozens of small fees adding up to a large amount.”

And he knows from experience; his staff once realized they spent more than $6,000 in one month on software alone, jolting them into setting a budget and reviewing it regularly as technology and their needs changed.

How do you begin the process of systematically managing your technology requirements?
  • Set a budget, and keep it in check!
  • List the most important segments of your business.
  • Focus on the areas that could benefit from improvement or where your processes aren’t working.
  • Identify what tasks each solution will support, map out exactly how it will help and who will benefit.
  • Create workflows and processes for implementation, making sure the individuals involved are on board. (Be sure to include training in your timeline!)
  • Revaluate quarterly, if not more frequently, to identify which technology purchases are working and which aren’t. (If you’re not using the solutions yourself, set up time with all applicable staff members to ensure you gain a complete perspective.)

Some critical areas to consider are sales, marketing and customer data. According to McDougall, small businesses that make mistakes in these areas can take years to recover. So, it’s vital to evaluate specific products and services carefully. Often tried-and-true providers and products are best—even with more interesting, yet less tested, solutions available.

When you’re ready to buy, support and training are critical factors to consider before making a commitment. If you can’t figure out how to use what you’ve purchased, it’s just going to sit there and you will have wasted your money. “Look for companies that provide webinars and/or private training. If the company doesn’t provide training or support and you really like the product, you can look to sites like elance.com or odesk.com for people you can pay hourly to help you.”
Whether its CRM or time tracking, technology solutions can encourage efficiency and organization, but it can only take you so far. As you’re investing in technology, advises McDougall, also invest in your people.


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