7 1/2 Ways to Stop Wasting Money on Technology
Most of us have figured out that not every advancement in information technology (IT) is a step in the right direction. The key to getting the most out of your IT investment begins with making wise decisions: understanding how to invest in planning, training, upgrades and new technology. If you follow the principles below, you can avoid the most common technology mistakes that business managers make. As a result, you’ll realize a greater return on your IT investment, and gain the loyalty and respect of your customers and staff.
- Begin with planning – Building computer networks and business processes in an ad hoc fashion is very inefficient. Every organization that desires future prosperity should develop a one-, two- or three-year technology plan. A great place to start is to plan your IT spending. I’m not suggesting a single IT line item on your financial budget, but a written detailed spending plan which includes the specific equipment, software and services that are expected to be needed in the foreseeable future. Refer to it often and revise it as needed.
- Don’t put the cart before the horse – Evaluating, selecting and purchasing software to accomplish a specific task should occur after you’ve fully defined the task or process to be performed. For example, if you think you want to keep better track of your customer relationships and sales prospecting activities, don’t jump in and start evaluating customer relationship management software to see who has the best product at the best price. Instead, figure out what data or activities you want to track on these clients or prospects; how much time it will take to track it; how the data will be used/analyzed; who will input the data, do they have the time to input it, do they see the value in tracking this data; and so on. Develop the process first; then look for a technical solution to help make the process efficient.
- Get buy-in first – Making a purchase decision prior to getting valuable input and buy-in from those who will be using a new software application could result in a failed implementation. Resistance to change is part of our human nature. If not properly managed, this forced change could lead to workers developing their own processes to work around your new system, or worse yet, a mini-mutiny where they force you to walk the plank.
- Train your workers – Lack of training is the number one reason that software is underutilized. Many of today’s modern applications are full of complex and hidden features that are rarely used by the average office worker, but could help the worker become more productive. Training helps workers better utilize the tools they have been given, boosts their self-confidence, and empowers them to excel.
- Understand the limitations of your office IT expert. Most small organizations can’t afford a full-time IT person. Instead, they rely on their resident computer expert to keep their technology running smoothly. But implementing and maintaining today’s advanced technologies is often a complex task. There are so many details to keep track of, so many users to please, and everything seems to take longer than it should. Even though your expert may be brilliant, he or she likely will need help with the heavy lifting. It’s a smart decision to seek out a trustworthy IT consultant who can help with the complex issues, and help you make strategic decisions regarding technology use.
- Keep your data secure –Because today’s Internet is such a dangerous place, prudent users should take every precaution to defend themselves from the risks. It’s much cheaper to keep a virus, worm or other malware off your computer network than to deal with the repercussions once you’ve been attacked. Invest in antivirus, antispam, and antispyware software, and keep your systems patched with the latest operating system security updates.
- Think long term – Making reactive short-term fixes, such as trying to squeeze the last ounce of production out of that old Windows 98 PC by getting it tuned up is probably not the best move. A new PC with the latest software, and protected by a three-year warranty, will be far less expensive to support, and far less frustrating to the person sitting at the keyboard.
7 1/2. Don’t ignore problems – Computer problems generally don’t go away on their own. If you see an error on your screen and don’t understand it, it’s wise to contact someone who may. For example, if the error indicates a hard drive problem, waiting until the hard disk grinds to a halt could cost you the loss of every scrap of your data. Acting quickly could save your data, hours of lost productivity, and most importantly, your reputation.
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Jeff Dettloff is the President & Chief Problem Solver for Providence Consulting, a Lansing based IT company dedicated to helping individuals, organizations, and businesses use technology wisely.