Before you start considering what technology you need and how you want to start implementing it, spend some time considering your process and how to involve your people in advance.
As they say, if you don’t know which way you’re going, any old road will do. And taking any old road can easily turn into an expensive and unproductive way to run your business.
Quite often, poorly implemented tech ends up with little more to show for it than another bill to pay every month and staff who are confused and probably annoyed by the whole thing.
The mindset for businesses looking to implement a tech solution should, therefore, be to head off all this potential drama at the pass, make good decisions about which tech to buy, and then implement it with a ‘change management’ frame of mind.
This article is devoted to the stages leading up to and during the buying decision – pre-implementation. Future articles will discuss what to do after you’ve decided to buy.
Bring the masses onboard
First things first. You need to involve your staff in the buying decision.
Yes, it will make it take longer. Yes, they will ask questions you might not be able to answer, but it’s worth it. If you do this properly, your people will feel ownership of the eventual decision and will therefore be much more comfortable implementing it. Also, people who are comfortable with a decision can put up with more teething issues (which will inevitably arise).
Plus, you might find there is someone in your business who’s been dying to step up and get their teeth into a project. Just make sure that if you do delegate, it’s real delegation, not just dump and run. Make sure they know what you are trying to achieve, the budget, the timeframe, how often you want them to check in with you, who will make the final purchase decision, etc.
Process, process, process
Next, you need to think process first, technology second. This will assist in a couple of ways. Taking the time to work out your ideal process will give you a much better shopping list of features and something to measure potential tech products against. Without these, you will be buying based on the skills of the salesperson, not on the basis of what your business needs. One great way to approach this step is with a blank wall and a pile of sticky notes. Each sticky note is a step in the process. That way it’s easy to move things around as you (inevitably) realise it’s a bit more complicated than you had first assumed. Again, there may well be someone in your business who would be keen to take carriage of this.
Regardless of whether you lead the charge or hand it over to a team member, working out the ideal process should involve your whole team. This gives you the joint benefits of your people buying into the decision-making process and a better outcome. Even the very best of us don’t have all the answers, so including your team will flush out issues you hadn’t considered and may well put innovative solutions on the table.
In some cases, you may even find that your existing tech stack can solve the problem – hallelujah! No new tech required at all.
Once you have figured out what your ideal business process looks like, and your team is onboard with trying something new, you are in good shape to go to market and source some technology.
You will often find that the various tech products overlap. By having your own shopping list, you can make sure you stay on track to find the right one for your business and not get carried away by a great sales pitch, a charismatic leader or an entertaining video.
Not that you, dear reader, would be affected by any of these, of course, but just in case.
Sarah Penn, managing director, Mayflower Consulting, specialises in business strategy and implementation and writes a column for Professional Planner Online about how businesses adapt to change.