How to Evaluate Technology Solutions Without Getting Lost in the Weeds

Evaluating technology can be complicated

We asked a group of business leaders “When you hear the word technology, what do you think of?”. This all too familiar response -- “It’s complicated and expensive.” – landed in an instant.

No doubt about it. Technology can be both complicated and expensive. Faced with buying decisions that hit not only your budget but also disrupt your comfortable status quo, it’s small wonder that business leaders find reassurance in doing nothing for another day.

The practical reality is we all have to make those dreaded technology decisions. Doing nothing isn’t a fruitful plan. Buy once and forget it isn’t a technology strategy that serves the best interests of any successful company in today’s fast-moving, competitive landscape.

So what’s a growth-minded business leader to do?

A technology evaluation project, regardless of the scope, succeeds with a repeatable process. We won’t go into the process here, but we will share 8 questions you and your team should ask before you get lost in the weeds.

These proven discussion points will  help you replace complicated and expensive with confident and profitable.

1. What is the business need?

Before you even begin to consider solutions and worry about costs, write a clear, concise description of the problem you are solving.

  • Is this the immediate need only of one user, small group, or single event situation?

  • How does the problem and its solution align with the company's overall goals and needs.

  • Why does this problem need to be solved?

  • 2. How will technology solve this problem?

    It's tempting to fall into the technology-will-do-it trap. The clearer you are about the problem you are solving, the more likely you are to uncover either the right or a different solution. It's quite possible, for example, that a simple change in an existing manual process is all that is needed.

    We expect technology to do the work that thinking can solve.

    3. What is the expected outcome?

  • What will your user's life look like when the problem is solved?

  • How will the company benefit?

  • Will your customers share in the result?

  • How will you measure success?

  • How does this outcome contribute to your company's long-term strategy?

  • 4. What happens if you don't solve this problem right now?

    This is especially important when the problem is specific to one person or a short-term need. Each new piece of technology added to your existing tech stack creates one more layer of complexity, cost, and risk.

    5. What other tools or software do you have in your current technology stack that can do all or some of this job?

    If you have never done a software inventory and integration roadmap or it's been a while, this is a good time to take stock of your existing technology assets. When you have a clear picture of your technology landscape, it is much easier to make informed, strategic decisions.

    For each tool in your tech stack, what does it contribute to the overall company needs? Ask the people who use the tools daily. You might uncover new uses for old tools as well as unknown problems that also need to be addressed.

    6. What are the potential obstacles and risks if you implement a new technology?

    Think of your technology framework as a collaborative team, not a collection of employees doing their jobs in isolation.

  • How will a new piece of software work with the tools that everyone relies on daily?

  • What users will be impacted? We all know that adapting to change can be hard for some people. The best technology solutions in the world won't solve your problem if employees are unable or unwilling to adopt them.

  • What existing manual processes and procedures will be affected? So much of what we do day to day is automatic. Take time to carefully consider the routine, essential tasks and how a disruption to them can impact your operations.

  • 7. Who in your organization will be responsible for managing each new piece of technology?

  • Think of each new tool as a new employee who needs onboarding, a clear job description, and frequent attention.

  • How will this additional responsibility impact their current responsibilities?

  • Why do you think they are the right go-to resource?

  • 8. What is your budget?

    You might wonder why this is the last item in the list. We've already acknowledged that technology can be expensive. But here's the interesting thing about considering at the onset the cost of a solution.

    When you make a premature decision based on cost alone, you are limiting the potential opportunities technology can uncover.

    Keep an open mind. Successful evaluation relies on collecting reliable, unbiased information that will guide your decision.

    As Warren Buffett said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get."

    It can sometimes be difficult to project the future value of a technology investment. ROI (return on investment) calculations are easy when you have reasonably concrete numbers. Estimating the return on an improved process or streamlined workflow, for example, implies a certain amount of guesswork.

    Nevertheless, setting a reasonable ROI expectation will create guardrails around potential solution decisions.

    Cost of Technology

  • How much will the technology cost

  • Are these one-time or recurring costs

  • Are the costs variable depending on counts such as users, devices or usage

  • What are the internal costs for implementation

  • What are the costs of training employees

  • What impacts will be there to existing systems

  • What are the internal costs if you assume some or all of the ongoing support

  • Return on Investment

  • What increase in sales or profit do we need to cover the costs

  • How long are we comfortable waiting to see a return

  • What increased value will we deliver to our customers

  • How will we measure the return

  • How will we decide to abandon or change the solution if it doesn't deliver the expected results

  • Takeaway

    Did you know that we've been

    1. researching,
    2. evaluating,
    3. recommending,
    4. implementing and
    5. supporting

    the right technology solutions for our clients for 31 years?

    Knowing the questions to ask and uncovering company impacts to consider are skills we can bring to your company. Before you consider your next technology purchase, consider our technology evaluation services. We can help you overcome the frustration and time invested in doing the tedious work yourself.

    Remember, you know your business better than anyone. But you don't need to become a technology expert. Communicating your business goals and needs to the right business technology partner is how you will put the right technology to work for you.

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    . . .

    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships.

    She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need.

    As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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