The Right Way to Select Technology. A new book by Rosenfeld Media.
The Right Way to Select Technology. A new book by Rosenfeld Media.

Are you a small business owner? The 2016 State of Small Business Report revealed many truths about small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) that you likely live every day. Marketing budgets are small, IT services are limited or non-existent, and small businesses choose digital three times out of four for marketing channels. So, it is no wonder that SMBs struggle when it comes to selecting a technology platform. You want something that is affordable, easy to maintain, and meets most of your digital requirements without the confusing features that large enterprises take for granted. This challenge is intensified when encountering software vendors who lack small business expertise. Worse is the heartbreak that SMBs can face after buying the “perfect tool” only to find it is overly complex to configure and maintain.

If your SMB has ever found itself in the position described above Tony Byrne and Jarrod Gingras are here to help. Last month they published The Right Way to Select Technology: Get the Real Story on Finding the Best Fit. In this step-by-step guide, the authors present their tried and tested approach to choosing a technology or vendor partner to solve your digital needs. The book does not specifically target SMBs, in fact it is focused on enterprises. However, the processes are flexible enough to adapt to the smaller business environment, whether that means finding a software integrator, consultancy, design agency, or vendor implementation team.

The authors provide the fundamentals for buying any new technology through chapters such as “Crafting a No-Bullshit Business Case.” While other chapters such as “Understanding True Costs” cut to the bone of hidden costs that often are challenging for businesses with no IT department or a general lack of digital expertise. The book tackles many different interactions with vendors including how to engage them and be taken seriously, how vendors might respond, and tips for getting the insights and answers you need from vendors to make the best possible business decision.

Oftentimes the small business owner is also the company’s only staff member and as such may find themselves selecting technology or vendors late at night at their own kitchen table. Perhaps most useful for these small business owners are the numerous tips and insights for understanding the true cost of ownership and how to best negotiate the software or vendor service buy for the business. This alone is worth spending $39 to own a book which will provide you with not just a methodology for selecting the digital resource you want, but also the reality checks you may need but had not considered. As a small business owner, I found it refreshing to read considerations, such as “Do you have the requisite skills in house, do you have the requisite culture to manage change effectively, and do you have the resources, time, expertise, and commitment to see the initiative through?”

While the book won’t try to dissuade you from going down a specific path, like a good friend it will question your assumptions and test your determination for acquiring and seeing through an investment that can catapult your business – in a positive or negative direction. The methodology maps out a step-by-step approach to identifying your true needs, budget, and capacity. It provides a great resource for engaging the right vendors, vetting them, and making the selection, as well as understanding how to successfully govern and make the tool effective for your business.

The authors, both principals at the aptly named Real Story Group, aim to get you the real story on selecting a platform that is right for your organization’s needs, but you will still have a bit of homework to do. For example:

  1. Your organization may not have large marketing and IT teams – or any marketing or IT teams – so organizing a multitude of people into a single group for decision making may not be an issue. The opposite may be the case. You will need to set aside enough time in order to follow the recommended process and get the best outcome.
  2. Capacity benchmarking is hard for any organization. Small businesses usually max out their capacity in any given area, so benchmarking internally to understand bandwidth may not make sense for you. Instead, consider competitive analysis with other small businesses or challengers. This will give you an indication of what others are doing, how much incrementally more you need to invest to make the technology a success in your organization, and what types of investments you might be able to put off to a later time.
  3. The book provides the process for selecting the right technology, but it doesn’t tell you which technologies to consider. You will need to undertake a small research project to determine the landscape and what solutions are suitable – functionality and cost wise – to the small business environment. If your small business is like many that I have worked with, this may be enough of a distraction that engaging a consultant is worthwhile. The consultant can snapshot the terrain and let you make the decision. Just consider the implications ahead of time and deliberately commit to a strategy.

Because the general marketplace often forgets the small or medium-sized business, it is refreshing to find resources, such as this book, that can be easily adjusted and appropriately scaled. Perhaps in the sequel, the authors will spend more time addressing this underrepresented segment. Or maybe they will take up the SMB cause and publish a book specifically intended for this audience. But for now, make good use of the book and address your technology needs in the right way.