It seems like every week there’s new technology hitting the market. And just like the gazillion devices and applications before, it promises to automate routine responsibilities, make your business more efficient and simplify your life. Those of us who have been in the tech industry for several years know better than to believe everything we hear.
But cynicism is not the answer to today’s rapidly evolving workplace technology. You already know technological advancements are powerful and necessary to business continuity, but some of the biggest trends and shakeups have yet to hit the market. This means, instead of turning a blind eye to the “product of the week,” we should be prepared to pounce on this next big game changer.
Consider asking yourself this series of questions to help determine if the latest workplace technology product might be a good fit for your business model, culture and industry.
1. Who Makes and Supports It?
If the maker is an obscure startup with no one to vouch for its credibility, you probably don’t want to place all your faith in its revolutionary new product. Likewise, if the maker is a prior tech industry dropout, you’d be wise to wait and observe. Stick with a reputable provider that has a long-standing track record that proves its expertise and reliability.
It’s also important to find out who supports the tech tool. Know who you will be relying on to help you through technical difficulties and, furthermore, make sure support is available any time of the day or night. Depending on how you use the product, even one minute of downtime could cost your business thousands of dollars—not to mention disgruntled customers and a bruised reputation.
2. What’s the True Cost?
Look beyond the sticker price and really dig into total cost of ownership. And beware: Some providers have auxiliary fees that put businesses over budget. To avoid this conundrum, ask about costs associated with:
- Annual maintenance
- Technical support
- Added security features
Finally, never be afraid to ask for a free trial.
3. Will It Improve Key Business Function?
Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Take a long hard look at your business operation. What are your pain points? Are there any bottlenecks or inefficiencies that this technology will solve? If the answer is no, what’s the point of the investment? For the purchase to make sense, it must contribute in some way to either reducing cost or increasing revenue.
To determine whether new technology makes sense to your business, compare the benefits against your core business goals. Once you understand what’s most important to your business, it’s easier to identify future technology investments that will align with and support these goals.
4. Do My Employees Want It?
For new workplace technology to take root, employees must adopt it unanimously. If they feel it complicates their job or takes too much time and effort to implement, you’ll end up with two camps; those who rebel and refuse to use it, or those who begrudgingly comply but feel it negatively impacts their work experience. Neither is a desirable scenario. Ask those who will be expected to use the workplace technology for insight and check with the provider about “test driving” the new technology before going all in.
5. What Other Technology is Required to Make It Work?
If you’re purchasing hardware, will it require specialized software? If you’re buying software, what hardware will you need? It’s easy to become blinded by a shiny new tech tool and all the promise it holds for your workplace. But don’t neglect to consider what upgrades you’ll need to make to your current infrastructure to support the new technology.
Likewise, consider whether or not the new technology will speak the same language as your other systems. There’s a reason “integration” is one of the top tech buzzwords of the year. Systems should work seamlessly together and if new technology isn’t agile and easy to integrate, or current systems are too old, you’ve got some decisions to make.
6. Are Others in My Industry Implementing This Technology?
This final question is a bit tricky. If the answer is yes, find out how they’re using the technology, and which provider seems to be the favorite. By observing the experiences of those around you, you may be able to find ways to implement technology better, or identify a solution that better meets your workplace needs.
If the answer is no, don’t automatically discount your investment. Taking technological risks can sometimes reap huge rewards (like a significant competitive advantage). But again, apply questions one through five to be certain the investment makes sense for your unique business goals.
Too often, technology is viewed as a burden; a door that many workplace managers or business owners avoid opening because they are either too busy to give their full attention, or can’t imagine the added headache. But when you choose wisely for your workplace, technology isn’t an obligation—it’s an opportunity, an asset and a game changer that will lead to unprecedented efficiency and productivity.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.