Over the years, I have seen many small businesses regret purchasing software and other tools for their small businesses. Why? They did not evaluate their processes and people before making their purchase. Software and technology do not fix a business. Software and technology are the tools to carry out your strategies and processes.
Therefore, the answer to the question, what comes first, the strategy or the technology, is neither. It is a trick question. Before bringing in technology, you must understand your strategy, process and people.
Think about it from this perspective. You have signed up as a volunteer baker for your child’s school bake sale and are eager to bake those chocolate chip cookies featured in Taste of Home. You run to the grocery store and purchase all the baking ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. You get home, line up all the ingredients and baking supplies on the kitchen counter and preheat the oven. You are excited to get going. You pull out that Taste of Home magazine that features the recipe you need and get started.
You start on step one, then two, and then uh oh. The recipe requires that you use a flour sifter. You don’t have a flour sifter. You decide that you can probably just skip this step. Then you realize that this recipe calls for shortening, which you did not realize because you did not look at the recipe before buying the ingredients. You search the internet for a substitution for shortening, which is butter. You don’t have quite enough butter, but you make do. You follow the rest of the recipe, and when you take the cookies out of the oven, you notice that they are quite flat and hard.
You did not evaluate the process or strategy, ergo the recipe, before purchasing the ingredients and tools that you needed. Had you evaluated the process and tools outlined in the recipe before baking the chocolate chip cookies, they would have more likely turned out like the ones on the cover of Taste of Home, soft and chunky.
The same is true in business. Don’t be quick to purchase software or technology before evaluating your business’s strategy, processes or people. It could leave your business’s ROI flat (or nonexistent) and your processes harder than they were before.
According to a survey conducted by Brother International, 63% of small business owners feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which new technologies to adopt. Small business owners should take the following five steps before purchasing any technology or software:
Review your business plan and marketing plan - Your business and marketing plans are the roadmaps or GPS for your business. These documents outline your mission, vision, goals, SWOT, people and more. Knowing these key pieces will help guide you in your decision-making journey. If you don’t have these documents, work on creating them.
Review and set up your budget - You need to make sure that you align your technology budget with your current financial situation and future goals. The budget will help you to avoid purchasing additional technological perks and add-ons your company doesn’t need. Remember that the cost of technology is only one cost to purchasing technology. You must consider the cost of implementation.
Are you looking for software or technology to solve a problem for you? - If yes, what problem are you expecting the technology or software to solve? Before purchasing any technology or software, review your current processes. Technology or software is not always the fix. Sometimes, the answer may be that you need to adjust your internal processes.
Will the new technology or software integrate? - You want to make sure that your current and existing technologies can integrate, and remember that there usually is an additional cost to do so.
Evaluate security and privacy - Small businesses are vulnerable to hackers, and with all the recent security issues, it is imperative that your technology and software is secure and private.