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5 steps to plan for your technology purchases

Every tech purchase should be preceded by a needs assessment

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Buying new technology for your business is expensive and time-consuming. The last thing you want is to find out your new system doesn’t meet your needs. But that’s what happens to a surprisingly high number of entrepreneurs.

The culprit is often a lack of proper planning. The answer: A technology needs assessment. This is a systematic review of your company’s IT needs—both current and future—based on your existing technology and your company’s growth plans.

Follow these five steps to assess your company’s IT needs.

1. Study your workflow

The first step is to meet employees in each department of your business to understand their workflow and technology requirements. Get a good picture of how employees do their work and use technology. Identify bottlenecks and other chronic problems, especially ones related to technology. And ask employees what their ideal workflow setup would look like.

Finally, think about how you think your business will change in the next several years and how your technology needs will evolve. You don’t want to acquire software that’s perfect today but won’t support your growth plan.

2. Review existing technology

With the help of employees, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing hardware and software technology. How does this technology affect the workflow problems you’ve identified?

3. Consider alternatives

Before you spend big bucks on a major tech system, think about the alternatives. Maybe your tech bottlenecks can be solved by a simple change in your business processes.

Also look carefully into whether you’re using your existing technology to its fullest potential. You may already have the right software, but you’re not using its full functionality.

4. Assess your resources

If you decide a new system is warranted, think about your available resources for the purchase, including time and money. This will strongly influence your choices. You may need to prioritize your needs if you can’t afford a system that satisfies all of them.

Be sure to consider the resources needed to implement the technology, including employee training, changing business processes, licensing, maintenance and support. Many tech projects fail because of a lack of attention to implementation.

Also, don’t forget to assess your human resources. One of the major stumbling blocks for tech implementations is employees’ openness to change (or lack thereof). It helps to involve your team from the beginning and to give proper attention to helping employees adapt to the new technology.

5. Consider outside help

If you don’t have a tech-savvy person on staff to lead your needs assessment, you might benefit from hiring an outside tech expert.

This person can ask the right questions and will have fewer preconceptions about your existing workflow and technology. Employees may also feel more comfortable opening up to an outsider than to a manager.

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