What does your unique selling position, your company’s core differentiators, and your competitive advantage have to do with the software that you use to run your business? In a word: everything.
There are a number of software packages designed to make business run better. Document Management systems provide fast access to documents which can improve service to your customers. Accounting packages not only keep your books in order, but robust reporting can be useful in identifying what products and services are most profitable for your business. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software suites collect, store, manage and interpret data from a variety of sources giving insight to areas such as product planning, manufacturing, inventory management and shipping. Whatever your business, implementing software solutions that match who you are as a business and what makes you great, coupled with employee know-how and strong leadership is a key way to gain a competitive advantage in your industry. In other words choosing the right technology solution is really all about you.
Don’t begin your search with a comparison of bells, whistles, feature sets and price.
A common mistake businesses make when evaluating new technology solutions is to begin their search with a comparison of bells, whistles, feature sets, and price. At the start of solution evaluation, this is the last place one’s attention should wander or else you may find yourself referring to your purchase as “that thing on the shelf we bought but never used.” Long before a company begins to review software solutions, the company should conduct a thorough review of themselves. What are your core competencies? What makes you different from your competition? What do you do better than your competitors? How will the software contribute to these competitive advantages? Answering questions like these will help you identify specifically what you need the software to do in order to help you build success. Failure to address these questions could result in a technology acquisition that diminishes or even prevents you from doing what you do well. It is important to remember: technology cannot deliver results you cannot define. Selecting solutions in any other fashion is an exercise in frustration and may end in failure.
Take time to develop an implementation and training plan.
Once a software solution is selected, it is time to develop an implementation and training plan. Developing a thorough implementation and training plan is just as critical as the technology selection itself. Businesses should expect to invest as much on the implementation and training phase of a new technology adoption as they do on the solution itself. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all box software. Today’s tools are highly customizable but they must be that: customized. You must identify what you intend the solution to do for you, how users’ workflows will be impacted, the timeline for implementation, and how you will measure the results. Measuring results is key. Software purchases should never be viewed just as an expense. Your core business software is an investment into your business, and you should be able to demonstrate a measurable return on that investment. Just like any investment, your technology resources should contribute to your bottom line in a tangible way.
Invest time and effort into full adoption.
Adoption of any new solution requires time and effort, and you must be willing to commit to investing the time and effort required to see the adoption through. This takes leadership. There are no shortcuts. Large scale adoptions are disruptive and time consuming. Employees often feel frustration as they are forced to learn new tools while under pressure to continue to perform their daily job requirements. This is when great leadership is needed most. Great returns can be realized from your technology investments when solutions are properly tailored to your business and its strategic goals, and those goals are communicated and championed to your team throughout the selection, implementation and training process.