Fluff is evil. Fluff is obscure. Fluff is out to get your small business. Let’s face it, as a small business owner you are often ignored and under served by the members of the technological community. Sometimes it seems like the sole purpose of some software packages and technology consultants is to rob you of time and force you to question your sanity.
Applying these six simple business principles to your small business technology initiatives will help you battle techno fluff and ultimately increase your revenue and productivity.
Principle 1: Identify and Perceive Fluff. It is quite simple – any technology solution that does not fit within principles 2 through 6 needs to be carefully scrutinized and, if applicable, identified as fluff and treated appropriately.
Principle 2: Solutions Must Be Stable. Any and every piece of technology that you implement within your business needs to be stable. This means that it works with a minimal amount of support, and/or that support is both excellent and easily available. This means that the solution does not negatively impact your business. What does an hour outage for an application cost your small business? How about a missed email to your sales staff?
Principle 3: Make It Easy. Easy access to company information and applications empowers employees to focus on your business. This means you only implement software tools that are simple to use and fulfill their purpose without adding unnecessary complexity to the lives of your employees. If the solution can be explained in a minute and the benefit is easily apparent, it is likely not fluff.
Principle 4: Support. One reality about all technology – it is eventually going to break and require support. For any new (or existing, for that matter) technology that your company is looking at, it needs to have good support. Technical staff and vendors need to be available during business hours and able to fix problems in a timely manner. Also, don’t buy from companies that can’t provide referrals for quality support. This also means that onsite technicians need to charge reasonable rates, have a good demeanor and be punctual. For those employing IT staff, it means leadership, technological support of business goals and happy end users. Remember that support is not consulting. The person providing support may not be the right person to offer business technology advice.
Principle 5: Knowledge. It is often the case that one or two hours of training can save a person or company time, improve interaction with customers, increase security and ultimately increase revenue. With new technology projects, be sure that training for end users is close to launch day. Identify the person in your company that will become the expert on new software. The success of any software implementation can be judged on how well end users are trained and how smooth launch day goes. If training resources for a solution you are evaluating are limited, move forward cautiously.
Principle 6: Integration. Integration that works succeeds immediately. Integration is all about increasing productivity and making things easier to do. Sometimes this is amazingly simple and inexpensive, and other times it is extremely complicated and requires expensive consulting and software development. The result always needs to be the same – a tangible improvement in the way that work is done. Before pursuing any integration project, do a quick cost vs. benefit analysis. The solution that costs $10K from one vendor might only cost $2K from another. Always get multiple bids on integration projects and if you have any doubts get a third or fourth opinion. Lastly, always, always, always verify integration claims that software vendors make. Often software “can” integrate, but that does not mean that it will do so easily. Request a demo of any major integration features you are looking for – make the vendor prove that it works.