This article was originally published on American Express on October 10, 2019.
It’s easy to be tempted by a tech tool or solution in the hopes that it’ll solve your company’s problems. But before you select your latest software, remember these strategies.
Technology-driven peer pressure in business is real, and it can hurt entrepreneurs at a time when they need every ounce of grit, focus and innovation they can muster to future-proof their businesses.
Business owners need to concentrate on disruptive planning. Yet far too many get mired in a tech stack arms race. Why? It’s the age-old worry: “If the latest company is using X product for chat and Y platform for enterprise planning, I think we should follow suit to keep up.” This type of thinking illustrates envy of the worst kind at the worst time. If emerging businesses want to stay on the path to a successful start, they need to resist the draw of every shiny new tech tool.
Tech: The Empty Calories of Entrepreneurship
Consider technological innovations as food on a buffet. Some dishes will provide nourishment, but plenty will not. The savvy diner concerned about fueling up without filling out must pick and choose accordingly. Regrettably, many entrepreneurs are opting for the wrong diet and it’s affecting their companies’ performance.
Our team has experienced this firsthand. We invested in a data visualization tool thinking it would answer the questions we asked—and some we didn’t even know to ask. Unfortunately, that was not the case for a few reasons. Our data was everywhere, making it difficult to analyze. Speaking of analysis, we thought the tool would do a lot more of that than visualizing. Plus, we didn’t have an individual on our team capable of asking the system the right questions. Taken together, these factors made our tech purchase not quite as valuable as we had hoped.
This is not to suggest that all tech tools are superfluous or devoid of purpose. Those that fit into the day-to-day workflow and positively impact users and customers are quite valuable. If prospecting and lead generation are your primary challenges, for example, then you should feel good about putting money toward tech that helps with either of those goals. But purchasing other types of software just because competitors use it takes precious resources away from growth.
“By getting a complete picture of the tech and weighing the pros and cons, you can become a better steward of your resources and avoid making costly errors.”
The smartest companies already know this: It’s the reason they pick two or three quarterly priorities and stick with them, avoiding tools that don’t fit their visions. Like athletes with nourished bodies, these startups may have a better chance of lasting until the end of the race.
Choosing Tech Selectively
Whether you’ve already launched your company or are just getting started, you must be prepared for an onslaught of opportunities involving technological innovations. To help you determine which are suitable and which should be scrapped, remember these three strategies.
1. Only add tech that enhances good processes.
Bad processes will never be fixed by tech. If you have a snag in your operations, no amount of software will save you—adding more will just dilute your capital and resources. On the other hand, you would be wise to investigate tech solutions that can help you accomplish more with less.
For instance, your company will live and die by the way buyers see your brand. Bad customer service may be a reason that customers turn their backs on a business. Consequently, if you find a tool that will help answer your customers’ questions, you can boost your conversions until the tech pays for itself.
Take chatbots, for instance. The right artificial intelligence solution can solve many common customer issues. It can also alert human representatives when problems get complex or shoppers become irritated. As long as steady, proven customer service protocols buoy the chatbot, it can be an asset to your tech stack.
2. Understand how the tech will impact the people using it.
You will be hit hard by marketing for tons of technological innovations. Before even signing up for a trial service, scour the proposal from the vendor. Does it make sense to you given what your people need? Is the language in line with your culture and corporate identity?
As you analyze tech choices, bring in the workers whose daily workflows would be affected by their installation. Collect their questions and concerns before making any decisions. Then, contact references from like-sized companies who currently use the tech. Find out whether the software, platform or vendor has streamlined or steamrolled their operations.
By getting a complete picture of the tech and weighing the pros and cons, you can become a better steward of your resources and avoid making costly errors.
3. Expect your tech rollout to be time-consuming.
It’s easy to fall prey to wishful thinking, and wishing for a perfectly smooth implementation of any tech solution you do decide to purchase is no exception. But you have to stay grounded in reality, knowing your experience will likely include learning moments and challenges you won’t foresee until you’re knee-deep in the process.
Begin with the most comprehensive plan you can create. Include build-up and your start and completion dates. It is fine if some aspects of the rollout overlap, and remember that your initial plan might need to adjust as you actually start implementing the steps.
As you adopt the tech, you will no doubt need to move dates of execution. Keep your corporate priorities in mind, of course, but don’t hold rigid to your early rollout plan. Build in some flexibility to ensure you can adjust the tech to meet your company’s objectives at every point.
In the right circumstances, cutting-edge tech can be an entrepreneur’s best friend. But if you’re thinking of making a change just because of peer pressure in business, stop and evaluate whether the tool actually meets your needs. By operating with that in mind and these strategies in your pocket, you’ll be able to navigate the world of tech to help future-proof your company and achieve your overall goals.
Want more strategic advice on how to keep performance high during scary times? Check out our recent guide on how to recession-proof your business.