The right technology can make running your business easier and more efficient.

Business technology could include:

  • hardware such as computers, printers, EFTPOS systems and data storage devices
  • software such as computer programs or cloud subscription packages like Adobe Creative Cloud or an online cloud-based accounting package

There's a range of products and set-ups to choose from.

The following process can help you figure out which products will be the best investment for your business.

1. Write a 'must have' and 'nice to have' list

For any hardware, software or subscription purchase that you're looking to make (such as Adobe Creative Cloud or a cloud-based accounting package), create a list of the features you'd like it to have. Then separate your list into 2 categories:

  • 'must have' – this list should be short and outline the features that are absolutely necessary for your business. Your 'must have' list will align with your digital strategy.
  • 'nice to have' – this list can be much broader. List the features in order of importance, including all the capabilities that will make running your business easier

Make a note of these lists in your marketing plan.

Consider the Cloud

While it's not always appropriate to get 'the next best thing', many businesses are trending towards 'cloud computing' and it might be a valid option for your business.

Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet, such as infrastructure, platforms and software. It normally includes:

  • infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – for example, servers for storing files, customer data and emails
  • platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – for example, Google apps
  • software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – for example, accounting platforms like Xero and Sassu

2. Ask yourself the right questions

When trying to find the best fit for your business, it's important you factor in several possible uses and situations to make sure it's the right fit.

Here are some general questions to ask yourself when considering new technologies:

  • What are your reasons for buying it?
  • Who is going to run and maintain it?
  • Will the hardware need to integrate with any other devices?

Depending on the type of hardware, you might also ask yourself the following questions as part of your decision-making process:

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Consider these questions before you choose a computer:

  • Who will be using the computer?
  • What will they be using it for?
  • How often will it be used?
  • Where will the computer be used?
  • Do you have enough space for a traditional desktop?
  • Could you consider other options like notebooks, tablets or all-in-ones?

Consider these questions before you choose a computer:

  • Do you need a single function printer or multi-function printer with colour?
  • How will you connect to the printer – do you have access to a Wi-Fi network?
  • What level of output and speed do you need, and how often do you print?

Consider these questions before you choose a system to store data:

  • How much data needs to be stored?
  • Where will data be accessed, for example locally or remotely?
  • Will your data be accessible during a disaster?
  • Have you considered cloud storage instead or as another backup source?

3. Clarify your budget

To make sure you don't overspend, set a firm budget and allow for other expenses such as:

  • additional software
  • accessories
  • training
  • maintenance
  • support
  • extended warranties
  • insurance

Also consider whether you'll be able to use the device out-of-the-box or if it needs to be customised.

4. Compare products against your 'must haves'

Go through your product list and remove items that lack features from your 'must have' list or are too expensive.

Narrow your list to 3 or 4 products that are a good fit. Look for:

  • high-quality customer support
  • a brand that has a broad base of users
  • a brand with a solid track record

5. Choose your finalists

From the remaining options, determine which products deliver the most features from your 'nice to have' list. Are there add-ons that you can buy later as you need them?

If you still have a handful of products left to evaluate, it's time to see them in action. If possible, visit your local store or supplier and ask to see the products in question and speak to an expert.

Here are some general questions to ask the salesperson:

  • Are there any ongoing costs related to running this product, such as annual subscriptions?
  • What kind of warranty does this product come with, and what does it cover?
  • Is this the cheapest price that you can offer?
  • Will you price match if I find a better deal somewhere else for this specific item?

By the end of this process, try to reduce your list down to no more than 2 or 3 products.

6. Get feedback from your team

If you have staff who'll use the technology, now is a great time to get their feedback.

Ask for their thoughts and feelings regarding:

  • your current hardware, its limitations and benefits
  • the types of features they would like the piece of hardware to have

Getting staff feedback will also help when it comes to introducing the new technology. Staff are more likely to be receptive to the change if you've asked for their feedback early on.

7. Make your final selection

You should now be in a position to make a final decision.