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5 Tips for Prioritizing Business Technology

5 Tips for Prioritizing Business Technology

Here are a few ways you can minimize the risks but maximize the rewards of business technology, while prioritizing like a pro:

Trying to gather all the technology you’ll ever need as a business would be like trying to eat a lifetime’s worth of food in one sitting.

Just as we occasionally need to refuel our bodies with a variety of meals, businesses make progress when they add more pieces of the latest technology to the way they operate, especially when it can bring specific value or help them achieve their objectives more quickly. Lots of people in business know this, of course. The tricky part is knowing which of the tools you need to add, and when.

Even IT managers, CIOs and CTOs might struggle with prioritizing their business technology decisions occasionally, in part because the demands of employees keep changing. Whereas back-office technologies — like enterprise resource planning systems and servers — were once considered the leading area of investment, the arrival of cloud computing changed everything. Much of what was once installed and run locally by a company can now be accessed on demand by a third party. That shift, however, required a lot of thinking about how to work in the cloud, which applications and pieces of infrastructure to move first, and so on.

The same thing happened when the world began to do almost everything they once did at a desk from the comfort and ease of a smartphone screen. Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, meanwhile, are dramatically changing all kinds of processes in many companies.

As exciting as all these changes are, it’s easy to make costly mistakes. No one wants to spend money on technology that doesn’t work well with your existing tools, for example, or which needs to be applied in a particular way that’s not possible based on a particular industry or business process. Some technologies are particularly complex, which means you also have to factor in things like employee training and the change management associated with getting them used to new tools.

Here are a few ways you can minimize the risks but maximize the rewards of business technology, while prioritizing like a pro:

1. Start from the customer and work backwards

There are lots of technologies that could look interesting and fit in a “nice to have” category, but you won’t go wrong if you think about the people making purchases. Imagine someone who’s just bought one of your products, for instance. Now think about all the steps that took place to reach that point, from the moment they first became aware of the product to all the times they were “touched” by a member of the sales team.

What kind of information passed between the customer and the company? What were some of the ways that information flow could be made quicker, easier, or richer somehow? This is the point where you can start to identify the best tools that actually address a business need, versus falling victim to what tech experts will sometimes jokingly refer to as “Shiny Object Syndrome.”

2. Pick a metric before you spend

The way you calculate the return on investment (ROI) for a particular piece of technology can vary a lot depending on what kind of technology it is, and there should be broad agreement across the organization before anything gets purchased.

Are you hoping a particular piece of technology will save money in some way, for instance? How much, and how quickly? Are you hoping to see a boost in productivity? What’s the best way to track productivity once the technology has been applied? Maybe a certain tech product will speed up your time to market with new products and services. Maybe it could even help you increase market share versus your competitors.

The better this is discussed up front, the likelier you’ll make the right IT investment decisions.

3. Assess your current state while eyeing the future

You probably have some kind of technologies running across the business already. How old are they, and how well are they working? Do employees make grim jokes about the slowness of your internet connection, for example? Then running certain kinds of applications may not go as planned. Have you experienced a recent security breach? Then you might need to look at how to safeguard your network before launching online tools that put more information at risk.

There might be other technology products your company owns, meanwhile, which run fine as-is, but would not jive with newer, complementary tools that could help you address emerging needs or stay competitive. Keeping your overall technology portfolio “future-ready” is as important as investing in the next big thing.

4. Pilot first, production second

There are lots technologies that show promise, but they might not really be worth prioritizing until you’ve gotten to be a bit more hands-on with them. That’s why many companies, even large ones, run “pilot projects” where a particular tech product is installed in a limited way.

Based on how such tests go, you’ll be able to determine whether or not to put the product “in production,” or install it in areas where it will deal with mission-critical data. A run-down of your most successful pilot projects will help your list of tech priorities to practically write itself.

5. Lean on a trusted advisor

This isn’t an area where you have to work in isolation. When you invest in an area of technology, look for companies that not only have a great product and a great price but also great expertise. After all, the best technology vendors have the experience of working with many different kinds of customers, and they can pass on their insights to you as part of the value they bring to the table.

If one of your vendor partners has noticed a number of similar firms in your industry moving to a particular kind of technology, for example, it might be worth a pilot project. In other cases, they might hear of technologies that aren’t really working or are more complicated than expected, which means you might want to hold off until they’ve become more mature.

Whatever your list of business technology priorities, think of it as an ongoing work in progress. When you use technology effectively, you’re always learning something new, and with so many new kinds of technologies coming out all the time, you may soon be innovating in areas you’d never imagined.

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