In an ever-changing business climate with a growing need for technology solutions, it can be increasingly stressful to decide what tools your company needs to be successful. Making the wrong move could set your company back in not only dollars, but also valuable time. You never want to be playing catch-up in the technology race.
Such losses can be avoided, though, by knowing your needs and clearly defining the goals for any new technology purchase.
While corporate and IT leaders join forces in researching and providing recommendations for new technology, wouldn’t it be even easier if there was a buying decision checklist that could help them in their technological purchases? Well, thanks to Duke University professor Ralph Keeney, who researches decision making, we can boil it all down to these four easy-to-follow steps:
Step 1: Identify your real decision problem
The first question is, “What is the need?” Technology for the sake of technology is never the right move for any business. Why your business need this technology has to be clearly defined—what problem is it solving, what process is it simplifying, etc. One way to accomplish this is simply by asking your employees. Consult a sample size of employees and identify their pain points and the shortcomings in your existing tools and processes. This will also help project any future needs so you can start to plan ahead for future growth.
Step 2: Specify your objectives
With your business need identified, what do you actually want to accomplish with your new tech? Identify what success looks like by articulating your desired outcomes. For example, let’s say your company needs a better method of conferencing. Is the end goal cutting costs, getting into meetings more efficiently, providing better collaboration with external stakeholders? This is where the old axiom “Begin with the end in mind” comes into play. By clearly defining the outcomes at the beginning, you make more strategic decisions about complex needs.
Step 3: Create a full range of possibilities
You know what you need and you know your objectives. Now it’s time to begin researching your options. A decision that affects how your company does business needs to be based on facts and exploring every possible avenue. This is a stage where you should not limit yourself. If a product checks some of the boxes on your list, but maybe not all of them, you still owe it to the process to explore its features and capabilities. This can help you in the short-term as well as in the future; should other needs arise down the road, you’ll already have completed some of the work.
Luckily, in today’s era of SaaS, free trials are plentiful and this is the perfect time to take advantage of them.
Step 4: Understand the consequences of the alternatives
Finally, what will happen on the other end of each decision? Just as you explored successful outcomes, you should survey the consequences of each alternative. This includes projected costs, feature comparisons, making sure integration would be seamless and creating usage models. This is a vital step to down the field and honing in on that perfect purchase.
No one can predict the future, but with a well-considered, strategic plan, you can more successfully weigh your options and lead your company’s technology future in the right direction.
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This post originally appeared on CIO.com’s Collaboration Nation blog, sponsored by PGi.