Operating a small business is no easy feat. In addition to providing a great product or service, business owners have to make hundreds of small decisions about every aspect of the company to keep their businesses running smoothly.
“Small business owners find themselves balancing the requirements of day-to-day business operations against their own innate entrepreneurial spirit,” said Jeremy Durham, senior director of portfolio, strategy and implementation at business solutions provider Paychex. Fortunately, tech platforms can help streamline your processes and put you on the path to success.
“From payroll to workforce-management software, business owners can accomplish even more than ever before, and with ease,” Durham said. The challenge is in choosing the right solution that both resolves current needs and adjusts for anticipated business needs and growth.
Tips for choosing the best tech solutions
If your business is in the market for new tech products, there are a few steps you can take to help you choose with confidence.
Do your research.
Because business-to-business technology is a burgeoning field, there are often dozens of companies eager to meet your business’s needs with their products. Make sure you take the time to outline what exactly you need a product to do. How can it make your employees’ work easier or your product more appealing to customers? What are the pain points in your current system?
“With so many technology products on the market, choosing the right solution often requires diligent research,” Durham said.
If you’re not familiar with the technology you’re shopping for, take the time to learn the basics about its function. Then, compare the product guides each company provides to your notes about your company’s needs and concerns. Consult trusted business publications for reviews, rankings and lists.
Talk to your peers.
If you’re considering a new tech solution for your company, tap into your professional network of small business owners across similar fields. While every company is different, they can offer you valuable insights about what has and has not worked for their teams and why. In addition, sometimes vendors offer their customers referral programs. If your peers can point you toward a great product, each of your businesses could reap the benefits.
Request demos from vendors.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few top picks, schedule some demonstrations from each vendor to get a better feel for how they work in practice. Typically, you’ll have a short “discovery call” with vendors first so they can build the demonstration around your company’s circumstances. Before the demos begin, work with your team to develop a rubric for evaluating each demo and to establish a list of questions to ask the vendor. Try to schedule demos so that the employees who actually use the technology, or at least a representative from their team, can attend.
Try free trials.
In addition to demos, many vendors offer free trials of their products that your business can try on for a few weeks at a time. Once you settle on a product that seems like a good fit, ask if the company provides free trials. This way, your employees can determine whether the software actually suits your company’s processes and adequately addresses the challenges it’s meant to overcome.
Gather feedback from your team.
Throughout the demo and free trial periods, it’s important to collect as much information as you can from your team. As your employees test a new product, encourage them to consider the rubric you’ve developed to evaluate it. Even after your company purchases new technology, try asking your employees for feedback on its implementation at team meetings or through employee surveys. You don’t want to continue paying for a product that does not contribute to the business’s operations. If the software is client-facing, you can also seek feedback about their experience by incentivizing reviews.
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