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Adopting the right technology at the right time for your small business is a tricky proposition. Don’t keep up with the latest advancements that can deliver real advantages for your people and processes and you risk stagnation. (Been there.) Get ahead of your employees’ ability to adopt change and adapt to new systems and you risk serious disruption. (Done that.) And the biggest risk is that you take on the cost and complexity of new technology trends only to discover that the gains just aren’t there. (Got the T-shirt.)
What I’ve learned the hard way over multiple technology selection and implementation projects is that proactively managing the three top challenges of cost, scope and sustainability is the key to driving a positive experience for yourself and your employees and a positive outcome for your business.
One smart move when determining ROI is to start with quantifying the return rather than justifying the investment. For online HR software, for example, you’ll want to take a hard look at how you manage your employees, compliance and administration areas to assess the possible efficiencies or cost savings of new technology adoption or an electronic/digital makeover.
And remember: Time is money! For example, if you would save 30 minutes daily by using online recordkeeping or time-tracking software, and you work 240 days a year, that’s 120 hours a year — or on average three weeks of gained productivity! Consider, too, the costs you can eliminate altogether. Creating and maintaining your records and forms online save you the costs or paper, printing, filing and storage space.
With your real costs in mind, you can then research your options knowing in advance the price range that makes sense to pursue. You don’t have to exhaust yourself with this process, but check out websites, request quotes, ask sales and customer service reps questions, particularly about extra fees, and talk to other business owners to get firsthand feedback.
If a basic service at an entry-level price point is all you need, look for that type of offering. As your business grows or your needs change, you can always upgrade.
When you wear many different hats, and are already strapped for time, it’s tough to prioritize adding another task to your list. You recognize the longer-term gains in a technology upgrade, but the short-term pain can be difficult to accept.
Carving out time to learn and adopt new technology and establish new processes is easier if you choose a service that lets you engage at your own pace and doesn’t force features and functionality that don’t benefit your business now. Bundling software services and tiered pricing levels often drive complexity that extends beyond the user’s needs, creating both higher cost and longer learning curves. Choose services that let you scale up to match the scope of what works for you and the pace at which you can learn and launch new processes.
This means dedicated professionals who are just a phone call or email away if you have a problem or question. You just can’t take chances with a provider that is not upfront and engaged in driving your success and satisfaction.
You can’t afford to have a service you invest in adopting become significantly more expensive or suddenly discontinued because the company you chose has other priorities. A little background research on the company itself can help you assess these risks. Key information to look for includes company history, financial foundation, leadership stability and focus and commitment to the technology system you’re considering.
For example, tech start-ups are notoriously volatile, especially if they leverage venture capital to fund development and growth. Look for news about the company possibly selling its assets or continually seeking more funding. Alternately, big companies with a variety of lines of business may have competing priorities that cause them to redirect resources, raise prices, repackage or sell certain “non-core” assets.
Be aware of whether the technology you’re considering is an “add-on” to the provider’s core products or a “down-sized” version of service intended for larger companies. These types of services may be more vulnerable to price increases or other changes which may disrupt your business.
To succeed in business, it’s important to work smarter, not harder — which often means replacing clunky, time-consuming processes with new, more efficient electronic solutions. This is certainly true with employee management and other HR tasks. If you’d like to learn more about online HR software and whether it’s right for you, check out our HR software quiz here.