In business, the chances are you have, like me, tried technical solutions that do not match expectations. There are large numbers of proven methods and they work – just not always. One of the biggest challenges business people face is how to find methods that work.
So, let’s think about the issues to consider as you develop your business.
Technical solutions are proven approaches to solving problems. The reason they don’t work is rarely to do with their effectiveness. There are good and bad technical solutions but mostly it depends on how you use them. If you choose the wrong solution, whose fault is that?
Actually, the answer to that question is not straightforward. Here are some things to consider, when choosing a proven method.
- What are you trying to fix? The obvious question many businesses fail to answer. If you do not understand the problem, how can you possibly find a solution? You can waste a lot of time and money pursuing a methodology that does not solve your problem!
- What does it do? This may seem obvious but try to penetrate beyond the hype. Many online solutions automate some process. It’s worth asking about the fit between your current approach and the approach the solution offers.
- How much does it cost? Many solutions require a monthly fee. Once you have loaded your data into it, you have committed to a system that might be hard to get out of.
- How long does it take to set up? I’ve heard of people who buy something on a monthly retainer and never take it out of the box because set-up is so daunting. Remember, it’s not just getting started, it’s trouble-shooting during the early months until you understand the system and have sorted out the inevitable issues between your data and the new system.
- How long does it take to run? It’s supposed to save time. Does it? There are other issues such as getting things organised, tracking progress and security that may outweigh time taken but pay attention, is this actually beneficial to your business?
- Does it come with support? If you pay monthly, you pay for support. Support must be swift and effective.
- Does it provide updates? This is not about the addition of new bells and whistles, so much as how swiftly they deal with fixes to problems.
Off-the-shelf solutions are generic. They’re designed for general use. Bespoke solutions are likely to be expensive and not always guaranteed to work.
Let’s stay with the former. If you’re going to opt for off-the-shelf, on grounds of cost for example, then it is safer to opt for simple solutions and build from there. If financial investment is low, you are not so likely to find you lose money investing in the wrong solution.
Furthermore, you may do more with simple solutions than you first thought. Invest in a basic email service such as MailChimp, and you can do a lot. A few other similar low-cost systems may be all you need to develop your business.
This gives you time to work out your offer and how to market it, leaving greater investment in more advanced systems until you are clear about what you need to grow your business. This way you integrate your business context, into a basic system, see how it works and invest in something more advanced once you have a clear idea what you need.
And this is where magic begins to happen. Choosing technical systems is only part of what you need. Your business has its unique approach and maybe you can solve its problems using basic tools. Can you adapt your business to the prevailing environment, avoiding use of complex technical solutions?
Every technical solution begins as an adaptive solution. It was created to solve a particular set of problems and may work for other similar businesses. People stumble on new ideas as they wrestle with their particular problems and context.
The question is whether to invest in one or more technical solutions or to develop your own. If your business is to solve the same problem for customers, then it is worth investing in a new solution. If something else is more important then you need the simplest solution that does the job.
Remember though, any new technical solution changes your business. Your business has to adapt to your new solutions. Businesses that can’t adapt fail.
One form of adaptation that some businesses find difficult is finding the language their customers need to hear to understand their offer.