December 4, 2017
If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, chances are that risk has become an integral part of your life. From how to calculate risk, how to mitigate it, and when to take it, each day is all about ensuring that you’re making the best decisions for your business.
And on that front, whenever you turn around there’s a new productivity tool, or other emerging technology that promises to make your business run more efficiently. This begs the question of when you should be an early adopter of new tech – it’s a question entrepreneurs faces on a regular basis.
Taking a leap is never a comfortable experience, but most entrepreneurs will find they reach a point where it’s unavoidable. So when you’re at that precipice, you need to make sure that you’ve got a parachute and that you understand how to properly evaluate and test the potential solutions before making them a core part of how you operate.
Don’t Leap Without a Good Reason
It’s been said before, and it holds true that no one will leave a product or service that’s ‘good enough,’ for one that ‘may be better.’
There’s a good reason for that. Not only is there the chance that it won’t work out, but employing new systems and processes can also be incredibly disruptive and costly. This pain can be worth the gain, but only when the solution is actually an improvement over the old way of doing things.
So, before deciding to integrate a new system into your business, the first step is to be crystal clear why you’re investigating this tech, and what you need it to do, not just now, but in the future.
One of the best ways to do this is zero in on exactly what needs updating or improvement by consciously documenting ‘a day in the life’ of your business, making note of every point of friction and frustration. This takes just one business day, but can save you years of heartache.
As you’re going through this exercise, ask yourself what’s taking up too much time to process, find, catalogue, etc. Look into where customers are dropping off in their buying journey, and the frustrations expressed by your staff. Ask yourself: Do they feel like they’re having to turn down requests by customers because of processing time? Are they losing track of sales leads because the system doesn’t allow them to categorize them properly?
Any number of issues can crop up, and each business is unique. The most important part is that you’ve identified the shortfalls of your systems and processes, which is the first step in identifying where new tech can offer a potential return on investment.
Finding the Best Emerging Tech
Now that you know what your key problems are, it becomes exponentially easier to sift through emerging tech, as any solution that you test out should be measured against how well it solves these identified problems.
Where you look to find a new app, system, or software will also depend on the problem at hand. However, conferences, peer networks, and industry publications tend to be a solid place to start.
Increasingly, many shoppers, even in the B2B space, are going online as a first stop. For instance, there is a wealth of information that follows the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where others have put the tech to the test for you and compiled detailed notes about performance and who stands to benefit.
Take Advantage of Free Trials
Wherever possible, take advantage of free trials and put the technology through your toughest tests – both with current business problems, and others that you envision could challenge your company in the future.
And always, always test new systems in a ‘sandbox.’ That is to say, in a safe environment where it won’t affect your real or live data.
Testing takes patience, and when it comes to cutting edge solutions, you also have to recognize that most will have bugs to work through. Even the best tech will have shortcomings or present frustrations as you learn how it works, and attempt to operate with a new way of doing common tasks. However, if you’re patient with it – and with yourself – you stand the best chance of breaking through your previous business barriers.
When We Took a Risk on New Tech
Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is often an area where entrepreneurs struggle, especially as their business scales. While many fledgling companies often begin by capturing and organizing customer data in rudimentary and free tools like Google Sheets, this tech quickly reaches its ceiling. Suddenly, what was a helpful tool, becomes a vortex of lost time spent going from tab to tab and updating cells.
This was exactly the case for my company Voice.com in 2005, at a time when Salesforce, now one of the world’s most notable and powerful CRMs, had yet to become a publicly traded company. In my search for a solution to organizing customer information, I came across Salesforce, and even though my cofounder and I didn’t know anyone else who was using it, we decided to give it a try.
What helped propel Salesforce to the top of our list included a free trial period, a great incentive for other tech entrepreneurs who want others to adopt their tech early. This was combined with our leap of faith to envision how this tool could help us, not just with what we were currently struggling with but with what problems lay ahead as the company grew.
The result is another tip for entrepreneurs: once you’ve identified your current issues, try to imagine how those problems might scale with the growth of your company. This will help you identify solutions that will be by your side over the long term, rather than act as a band aid.
After Integration, Stay Ahead of the Curve
In most cases, early adoption is not an activity that is undertaken once. That shiny new solution will need updating and sometimes maintenance.
Other times, you may simply outgrow it and have to go back out, searching again.
For those who are dedicated to staying ahead of the curve, there are incredible benefits to reap. Being adaptable to change will keep your business flexible and fluid, and lessen the risk that your company itself will become outdated.
As with all moves in business, the choice to become an early adopter must be made with your ultimate end goal in mind. So do your homework, put the solution to the test, trust your gut, and leap only when all signs point to “yes.”
Read more productivity tips to improve your business on TechCo
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