These days, even the most low-tech businesses rely on technology to underpin essential business processes – from taking payments to streamlining logistics. The tech ‘umbrella’ covers an ever-increasing selection of off-the-shelf and bespoke products, which means that every company has to figure out for itself the precise solution to their organizational needs. And, with recent advances in cloud-based services, AI and data management, there’s certainly no shortage of options – but how do you choose the tech that’s right for your business?
Factors to consider when choosing technology
It’s worth focusing your energies on the tech tools that will help you to grow your business (like lead generation systems) and streamline day-to-day operations so you can focus more on your core business.
Consider what’s not working optimally
Tech is only fulfilling its true function when it’s speeding up or otherwise improving existing processes. So, start your tech audit by assessing – as objectively as you can – what’s working and what’s not. By identifying your company’s pain points, you’ll be able to specify what you need to change to make a difference. For instance, if teams aren’t communicating as efficiently as they need to, introducing a collaboration platform like Slack could be a game-changer.
Think about the future
As well as looking at the things that are affecting your team right now, consider the impact of growth on your existing practices. If staff are investing a lot of time managing repetitive tasks, imagine how this will play out if you expand your operation or extend your customer reach. Examine potential tech solutions with scalability in mind but don’t blow the budget on a level of sophistication you simply don’t need right now.
Calculate the cost of implementation
If you’re considering a tech solution that’s new to everyone in your organization, remember to factor in the cost of upskilling your team. Even if your chosen tech is hands-down the best fit for your business’s needs, you have to reflect on how it will impact productivity until your people are up to speed. You can circumvent this problem to some extent by choosing a managed solution that will support the tech without overloading your in-house IT resource.
Take your time
Businesses – especially startups – can cave into the pressure to pitch themselves ahead of the technology curve. It’s best to keep a clear head when pulling your tech together, focusing on the tools that facilitate your business goals, rather than on a bunch of optional extras that won’t add anything – other than cost – to your bottom line. Pick the tools that meet your objectives and address your pain points, so you can open up opportunities for future growth.
How to choose an IT vendor
Choosing the right IT vendor is just as important as choosing the right IT solution. Once contracted, your vendor will become your IT partner, so make sure you pick an organization you feel happy to collaborate with. They should be keen to learn everything they can about you, your team and your business and will have the expertise to guide and support you as you move forward together. The more closely you and your partner are aligned, the more successful your relationship is likely to be.
That said, you should also consider how engaged you need your IT vendor to be, according to the expected length of their commitment. If your IT project is a one-off installation that will be managed by your in-house team going forward, you’ll take a very different approach than if you’re recruiting a fully managed service with the capacity to support a project over a number of years.
Open and honest
Guard against companies that over-promise and under-deliver. It’s often wiser to go with an organization that honestly admits the extent of what they can and can’t provide, rather than to be tempted by a snake oil salesman who’s being economical with the truth. Do your due diligence and take up client references to validate vendors’ claims – and make sure you repay their honesty with some of your own.
Naturally, you’re also looking for a level of expertise that is capable of transforming the way you do business. The best IT vendors are proactive – they will take a fresh look at your operation and work out how their solution can best serve your needs, so talk frankly about what you want to achieve and invite input.
Coming to an agreement
When you’ve selected your preferred vendor, you’ll need to agree terms. There’s often some wiggle room in the pricing model but be prepared to pay a fair price for the service you need. Legal and finance departments will work through the deal line-by-line, so expect this to affect the start date and build a few extra weeks into your schedule.
Choosing a tech stack
If you’re involved in a project that’s a little more complicated than average – if you’re creating your own app, for instance – you’ll have to select the ‘tech stack’ that will power your application before the first line of code can be written. Also known as ‘solution stacks’, the components they contain will provide all the elements needed to run an application and process complex instructions.
Your software stack will likely comprise an operating system, database, web server and web application framework, although they may include other components such as a programming language, software server or client interface. Selecting a tech stack can be problematic but if you break down the available options, you can narrow your search to a less overwhelming set of choices.
Decide first if you need to go mobile only with a native app (iOS before Android) for an audience of smartphone users or with a web app if your user base is primarily desktop based or has a complex user interface. It’s costlier to bring a native app to market but if your audience is mobile, you’ll need to cater for them.
Whether you’re designing for web or mobile, your time to market with a minimum viable product (MVP) will be key. By utilizing existing tools, you’ll significantly reduce the pre-launch development period, so begin by identifying the best open source tools in your sector and mirror their tech stack.
Use a back-end provider such as Parse rather than developing your own – and check out Github for the latest community developments. You’ll often find that the best tools spark a healthy developer community – witness the success of Magento and open source ecommerce platform Spree.
Your choice of tech stack may depend, to some extent, on the expertise of your team, so make sure your preferred stack is well supported by available talent. Choose the tech stack that best serves you and you should have a solution that will take you to MVP and beyond.