The right tool for the job
Most of us depend on having the right tools for the job. A mechanic, a carpenter, even a surgeon need specialized tools to ensure they can deliver what is expected of them. Technology follows the same basic process for picking software and hardware. There are six basic steps that will ensure you end up with something that will simplify your life rather than complicate it.
(1) FOCUS ON YOUR BUSINESS
There is no better way to determine what is important company than to focus on what you sell, and why it is better than the competition. With a clear vision on what you offer, it is much easier to align your digital toolbox to keep you on the path to success.
(2) SET GOALS
What do you want to accomplish? What is your budget? When does it need to be done by? A focus on these simple questions avoids many of the pitfalls of needing the latest/greatest tool without really understanding what you want to get done and much can you afford. When setting goals, it is usually best to think of incremental improvements that can add business value right away. Grand projects that are costly and lengthy to deliver and business needs can change before your project finishes.
(3) ASK FOR HELP
People generally like to be part of the solution. Let them. Listen to what they say: what they like and what isn't working. By sharing what your goals are and asking for opinions from staff, friends, select vendors, and most importantly, your customers, you will get input from a wide variety of viewpoints that understand different aspects of your business.
(4) CREATE A PLAN AND TIMELINE
You now know what is important to your business, you have goals for the new tools and you've asked the people that will be impacted by the choice. Establish a plan that is realistic in what you can accomplish, at a cost you can afford and with minimal impact as you transition to the new approach. Usually the best plans allow from incremental improvements: deliver a bit of value as you roll out the new software so everyone sees the value of what you are doing as early as possible. Think agile: the plan can't be too rigid as to not allow for changes mid-project.
Follow your plan but be flexible to market changes and feedback. If you remember the value you're delivering to the business within the budget, you can meet the goals even if things change. Be agile: you are trying to get to the goal line rather than following a rigid path.
(6) CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT
When you rollout a new toolset, getting it into the hands of the users is not the end of the project. You and your team will need to integrate it into your business. Adapt the tool, the process or both. We should constantly be checking that we are getting value from our investment. Listen to feedback: no one ever gets it exactly right the first time.
By keeping these six steps in mind, you can ensure that any software/hardware you invest in will provide value to your company while keeping the company focused on their business.