Whether from conferences and webinars, or hearing about successful use cases from other customers, businesses spend a lot of time hearing about the latest and greatest technology solutions that promise to solve all problems and deliver better value than current solutions… But something that is often not heard about is how challenging the journey can be to implement new technology and align this to the business strategy successfully.
One of the first and often overlooked considerations when it comes to choosing new technology is making sure you have the right data strategy to support your overall business goals. Data is critically important these days and without a strong and aligned strategy to support the gathering, maintenance and usage, you are likely setting yourself up for a painful journey ahead. Taking time to consider the overall digital strategy for your business, and embedding this into the wider business strategy, will help set you up for success in the long run.
When you are looking to introduce new technology to your business and add to your existing technology stack, there are some golden rules that you should consider before you embark on selecting or implementing the solution:
USE CASES – WHAT ARE THEY, AND ARE THEY PRIORITISED?
Understanding why you are getting this tool, what activities are you going to do with this tool, and what are the measurable outcomes you expect from this tool will drive the decision making on the right technology to pick. Understanding these key questions will also help you prioritise the varying requirements from the across team, and identify those requirements which are best aligned with your business strategy and outcomes, and which are more of a ‘nice to have’. Any value brought by deployed technology will be derived from the use cases used to set the technology up. So, if you spend the time getting these right from the beginning, you can make sure you select the best technology to achieve the desired business outcomes.
COST – HOW MUCH IS IT GOING TO COST IN THE LONG RUN?
This is a difficult challenge for any business to navigate. Some vendors such as Google or AWS have simple calculators allowing you to spec out all the applications and get a relatively good cost estimate; although be warned, there can still be hidden costs as new requirements develop along the way. In many other cases, vendors don’t include pricing on their website, and you have to reach out to them directly to try and get information, which can be a time-consuming process. Understanding the pricing model of a vendor is also important – some price by user count, others by capacity. If you might expect the number of users of a system to grow and change, it is vital to make sure you have considered whether the pricing model will remain effective as you scale. Costs can spiral, and finding in 12 months’ time that the solution does not benefit economies of scale can be frustrating.
INTEGRATION – HOW DOES THIS TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATE TO THE REST OF OUR TECH STACK?
Many software vendors today know that integration is essential, and come with easy integrations ready to go, especially with marketing and CRM tools such as MailChimp, Trello, Microsoft, etc. Considering how new tools and existing tools integrate is essential to ensure that information and data can move smoothly between each software. Failing to consider this may make teams even less efficient, causing additional manual processes to be invented to facilitate the required data flow.
SECURITY – WHAT ARE THE SECURITY REQUIREMENTS?
Most softwares in the market today have strong security provisions – without them, the solutions don’t tend to survive! When thinking about security, you should consider your specific requirements as an organisation. Permissions and access rights are often a key requirement. Maybe there are governance controls that you need to adhere to, and need audit trails, etc. Maybe you need two factor authentication. Your appetite for risk will often influence this – how important is security to the business, what measures do you have in place already in the organisation, and do these need to translate to the technology solutions as well? All of these requirements should be driven from your use cases.
SKILLS – HOW DO WE GET THE SKILLS TO USE THE TOOL?
After all is said and done, the business needs to adopt the technology once it has been implemented. So, it is important to remember how you are going to use the tool after it has been set up. You may choose to hire in resources who already have the knowledge and skills, but not all businesses are in a position to do this.
Therefore the training and upskilling of your team is a critical component of the implementation process – consider whether the tool can successfully land in the business, and be adopted by teams in their business day-to-day life. Making sure the team are part of the software selection journey and have had some input into the requirements will help ensure that they feel ready and engaged to adopt the technology once it is in the business.
SUPPORT – WHAT KIND OF SUPPORT CAN YOU GET, AND HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Support is an area that can easily be forgotten and can have huge cost implications down the line. When contemplating support, you can look both internally and externally – can your existing team fulfil the support function, or will you need to bring this in? Another thing to consider is how reliant your business will be on this support. Having a vendor that prioritises supporting clients, and has a strong track record, can make the difference in the successful implementation of the technology. Businesses often don’t realise the value of support until the moment it is need. Remember, you will rarely hear from your team about how well a system is running, but you will always hear about when the system is down.
LOOKING FORWARD – DOES THE TOOL HAVE A FUTURE?
New tools are being developed and launched all the time, and the way people engage with tools is changing frequently. This can be challenging to keep up with, and risky when selecting a new tool for the business. Should you go for something that has been long established, or should you explore a newer technology that hasn’t been around very long and perhaps hasn’t yet been tested in the market fully. Regardless of whether you are considering a well-established player or a new entry to the market, older technologies or those with low adoption rates still get shelved. So again, this is a risk appetite question. Don’t get blown away by flashy tools with the ‘new kid on the block’. Take some time to consider if the vendor has a good structure and growth roadmap for the solution.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
It is a complicated landscape out there, and it may feel like a lot of effort and preparation in order to select a new software for your tech stack. However, by considering these areas as part of your selection criteria, you can make informed decisions and ensure technologies are long lasting and embed swiftly into your organisation.