On the other hand, if it’s done poorly, technology can be a nuisance that slows you down, and an obstacle that merely serves to shift your focus to internal problems at the expense of your customers and the service you provide them.
Technology is here to stay, and it’s become a major contributor to how business is done these days. Here are a few tips on helping you get over any technophobia issues and learn how to use technology so it works for you.
Firstly does good technology need to be expensive? And how do you ensure you have good technology that helps and doesn’t hinder?
Let’s break down the question into what we mean by good technology and what we mean by ‘helps’. Once we understand that we can answer the question with a lot more clarity.
Good technology is technology that:
- Is easy to understand – you intuitively know what it does
- Is easy to set up and get trained, and is easy to exit and take your data out of (doesn’t lock you in when you want to leave)
- Integrates and works with your other systems easily so you can move data around without hassle
- Is not necessarily flashy or ‘cutting edge’; it does what it promises as seamlessly and naturally as possibly
- Is customer focused; it is about helping you acquire new customers, retain existing customers and maximise the service offerings you have
- Has a good development past and future; it will evolve and meet your needs as you mature as a business
- Is easy to measure the return on investment: you know what you bought it for, you understand the problem you wanted solved, you can measure the effect of using the new technology, you know your return on investment.
You will see from my list above that there’s a subtle point: whatever technology you buy, make sure its function suits and solves your business needs. Often small business owners buy software without properly understanding their needs. They will express opinions like, ‘I need a database system’ or ‘I need an accounting system with time tracking and job allocation’. When this is said, the owner is already in solution mode and has “solved” the problem in their heads by specifying the system they need.
Rather, understand the problem better and state it as a need with an outcome: ‘I need to track buyers and keep in contact with them so that I can sell properties that meet their needs and be a better agent for my vendors’.
The ‘so that’ statement makes it clear what the outcome of solving the problem is on your business. It is even better to state this as a measurable outcome:
‘I need to track buyers and keep in contact with them so that I can sell properties that meet their needs and be a better agent for my vendors. My benefit is I will sell 75 per cent of my properties to buyers I already know at the time I list, which will enable me to sell 10 properties per year more than I do today, and at a lower discount and faster time.’
Now you understand the problem and the outcome on your business of solving it. You might have a few more problems you want solved like sales to rent conversions, so list them all as a need, a ‘so that’, and a measurable outcome.
With your needs identified, you can look at options with confidence. You have a way to evaluate what is available and look at how well it solves your needs. You also have a way to work out what is ‘fair value’ to you to purchase the solution – you know the benefit you expect in real dollars returned and can apportion some of this benefit to the purchase.
So, does good technology need to cost a lot?
The answer is no – it should be a fair price for the value it provides to you.
In my next article I will explore some of the newer technologies such as cloud services and how once you can properly determine what your needs are, you can ensure you purchase the right option to suit your business.