By now, most business owners view technology upgrades as inevitable. Whether hardware or software, the tech your company relies on to operate will need to change slightly or even drastically for you to stay competitive.
Strange as it may sound, technology upgrades demand a bit of soul searching. That is, before spending the money, you need to dig deep for insights about what your business really needs and whether your employees or customers will appreciate your efforts.
Ask the right questions
Begin the decision process with a series of inquiries. That is, sit down with your leadership team and ask questions such as:
- What are the specific functionalities that we need?
- Do we need hardware, software or both?
- If software, are we looking at an entirely new platform or a smaller upgrade within our existing systems?
Assuming you already have a technology infrastructure in place, compatibility is an issue, too. If you’re using an older operating system, new software could be buggy or flat-out incompatible. In either case, you could incur substantial additional costs to update or replace your operating system, which might involve new hardware and impact other software.
When deciding whether to upgrade internal systems, get input from your staff. For example, your accounting personnel should be able to tell you what types of reports they would want from upgraded financial management software. From there, you can establish criteria for comparing different packages.
If you’re considering changes to a “front-facing” system, you might want to first survey customers to determine whether the upgrade would improve their experience. Ask them questions about what works and what doesn’t to assess whether major or minor changes are needed.
Create a “hot list”
As you’re no doubt aware, there’s no shortage of hardware and software vendors out there. So, just as you’d do your homework on a major asset purchase or the lease of a large office space, do it for a technology upgrade as well.
Generally, longevity is a plus. Look for companies that have been in business for at least five to 10 years, have a track record of successful implementations and can provide references from satisfied customers. Also find out what kind of technical support is included with your purchase.
For example, if you’re doing a software upgrade, is training part of the package? If not, you’ll likely need to send one or more IT staffers out for training or engage a third-party trainer, both of which will cost you additional dollars. And keep in mind that, if you buy a top-of-the-line system but the vendor’s customer service is nonexistent, you and your employees probably won’t be happy.
Your goal is to create a “hot list” of top vendors. With this list in hand, you can get down to the serious business of comparing the various bids. To aid you in this critical decision, ask for free trial periods or online demos to help you choose the best product for your company.
Ensure a happy ending
You’ve likely heard horror stories of businesses that haphazardly attempted to upgrade their technology only to lose time, money and morale fixing the resulting problems. Approach this task cautiously to ensure your upgrade story has a happy ending.
We highly recommend you confer with your Miller Kaplan advisor to understand your specific situation and how this may impact you.