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The right tools for the job: how to find the right technological tools to turbo charge the growth of your business.

I've seen it a million times. A small to mid-sized business reaches a point sometime in the first two years of operations when it realizes there must be a better way...

This thought is typically followed by a variety of fill-in-the-blank technology-treatable issues like '... to centralize client data', '... track client/customer relationships', '... automate customer service' '... track and increase sales', and the list goes on.

For many businesses, finding the right technology can, in fact, turbo charge the process of leveraging, managing and achieving desired business growth. However, with the thousands of options out there, how can the average business owner proceed to make the right choice when adopting a new technological tool?

It's not easy. In fact, I've recently discovered this firsthand while sourcing out a suitable CRM solution to meet the changing relationship management needs of my own business, Wardell Professional Development. During this process, I have identified several important steps that will help most businesses as they set out to successfully match their level of technology with their operational needs.

These are:

* An understanding of what level of technology your business is actually ready to adopt.

* An understanding of why your current level of technology is or isn't serving your business (so that you can proceed to make an informed decision on what will work best for your business).

* A survey of what your competitors are doing. The consequences of not doing this simple due diligence can be fatal. Many businesses end up unwittingly wasting a colossal amount of money and resources while damaging their staff moral by moving too quickly into a new technology.

To avoid this fate, I suggest you consider the following ...

1. What is the technology-culture of your business?

To paraphrase Dan Zimmer, Director of Business Development, Dotto Tech, businesses fall into three main categories, with respect to how they consume technology.

The Early Adopter is typically a young, entrepreneurial firm that may be more willing to gamble on a new release of unproven hardware/software that seems to best fit their needs while also demonstrating they are on the cutting edge. Conversely, Late Adopters are businesses inclined to get dragged into eventually choosing new technologies, such as putting up a website. They act--eventually--because they fear if they don't get on board the ship will leave without them.

As you'd expect, most businesses fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Middle Adopters want to be sure that the technology they adopt is vetted by the marketplace and, that once they get it, they'll be able to receive the support they need to get the most out of its functionality.

Not surprisingly, the greatest failures happen when there is incongruity between what a business owner thinks their company needs and what their company is actually prepared to tolerate.

To avoid fatalities, I suggest you take a survey of your company to find out what your people feel about your existing technology, if they understand the need for change, and what, if any, resistance they are likely to put up against making new technology work.

On all fronts, you need to make sure that your company will actually adopt whatever changes you have in mind before you begin the time-consuming process of choosing and adopting a new solution.

2. Why do you need what you think you need?

This is where things get a bit more complicated, because most of us, sadly, don't have the firmest grasp on the actual capabilities of our current technology or the potential capabilities of the options we're considering.

According to Trevor D'Mello, Sales Director, SuperOffice CRM Inc, it's a good idea to discuss the answers to the points below, as well as brainstorm with your team about potential solutions and avenues.

* Why isn't your current solution working for you?

* What are your goals for adopting new technology?

* What type of net gains do you hope to achieve with new technologies in, say, 12 months or 24 months time?

* How will you track the ROI for your new solution?

* How long will you use your new system before reviewing it?

* Who will be using the system, and do you have their buy-in?

* What type of resources, budget and timeframes will you allocate to ensure a new system will be successful?

And, of course, you'll need to spend a significant amount of time researching your options.

3. So, what are your competitors doing?

Zimmer says the best way to shortlist your options, is to take a look at what other businesses parallel in nature to yours have chosen to adopt and why. This means making a few phone calls, and talking to support people and CIO's from a variety of parallel businesses to get a sense of the factors that you should be considering as you look at your options.

Says Zimmer, "Never buy something without talking to someone who's used it first; you need to do several reference checks on any of the options being considered."

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And finally, depending on your specific need, there are endless avenues and options to consider. Once you've determined the level of technology your business is ready to adopt, the type of solutions you're looking for, and what your competitors are up to, make a list of your front runners and set up a series of demonstrations. When it comes to technology, the possibilities are almost endless. But if you do your due diligence, the benefits can be significant.

Good luck!

Mark Wardell is President of Wardell Professional Development Inc., an advisory group specializing in increasing the market-value of owner-managed companies. Email: info@wardell.biz; Website: www.wardell.biz
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Title Annotation:EXPERT ADVICE
Author:Wardell, Mark
Publication:Canadian Manager
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2009
Words:935
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