This article is sponsored by Comcast Business, but all opinions belong to the author.
So, you've got an idea for a company. But, before you go about actually starting your business, you have to put a lot of consideration into the technology plan that will support the demands of your business.
Living in an age where free WiFi is available at nearly every coffee shop and where every other person is playing Pokemon Go from their smartphone, it's easy to assume that every business is operating with the latest technology or, at least, operating with the right technology solutions that fit their business model.
According to Comcast Business, two-thirds of business owners feel overwhelmed when it comes to dealing with technology. While the business plan comes naturally for many, having to come up with a technology plan that works with the business model often becomes a much arduous task. It's only logical, of course – how can you determine which tech solutions not only work to support the specific needs of your company but also will have long-term sustainability?
Ryan Hulland, the president of Netfloor USA Access Floors, totally understands the stresses involved with creating the right technology plan. Over this past year, the company went through a major tech upgrade and had to come up with the right technology plan that fit the company's new and growing needs. They revamped everything – from changing their Internet plan and web host to implementing new online platforms to help with CRM and email. He shares with us his eight tips for putting together a new technology plan at your company:
1. Set clear goals, and don't be afraid to ask industry experts for help if you don't understand new tech.
“Don't go this alone, and don't make tech decisions harder than they need to be,” said Hulland. “There are plenty of online resources where you can find impartial opinions on which tech platforms are the best. Not everyone is tech-savvy, especially in non-tech industries that deal more with bricks and mortar, in-person work.”
2. Tech is not the end goal; your business is your main goal.
“New technology and platforms are not the end goal; they are a way to make your team more efficient, so you can serve your customers in the ‘real world' (bricks and mortar world). Remain focused on your business and what has worked for you so far.”
3. Use free trials!
Nearly everything has a 7-day or 30-day free trial; use [them]! You won't know if a system will work for your company if you don't try it out first. Warning: Don't get caught up in signing up for too many trials; you will get overwhelmed. Keep it simple!
4. Assign one person in your company to evaluate the performance of new tech or platforms you want to use.
“Assign one person to be accountable for evaluating new technologies and platforms, but get buy-in from the team. Find the most technical person on your team and/or the person closest to the platform you are evaluating (for example, the head of your accounting department should have a stake in deciding what your new accounting software will be).”
5. Let your team preview any proposed tech solutions.
“Make sure you let everyone preview the new system so you get team buy-in. Nothing is worse than migrating to a new system, only to have a few hold-outs that reject change and ask for the old system back. (Been there, done that!).”
6. Don't try to create your own tech solution.
“Don't reinvent the wheel! Don't be a trailblazer with new services; be a trailblazer in your own industry! Don't forget you are not in business to evaluate software and services. You have your own product to design, manufacture and sell. Find a platform that works for you, and move on.”
7. Read reviews.
“Read online reviews and stick with the top 3 service providers in any particular category. For example, there might be a new, cool CRM someone told you about, but you should stick to the top CRMs to ensure you've got good support from a company that will be around in the years to come.”
8. Make sure support or training is available.
“If there's no support or training, find a different solution. In my mind, great customer support and training materials are more important than feature lists. Make sure you and your team will be able to get your questions answered quickly. Make sure your team can get up and running on the new system quickly, so you can get back to business!”
When it comes to support, Comcast Business ensures their customers that they can reach one of their 1,900 live and specially-trained Business Service representatives within 30 seconds. If you're in the process of putting together your technology plan, check out Comcast Business and see what they have to offer.