What is new technology? The truth is, "new" technology can be anything that advances you or your company and creates ways to ease your burden. It could be as small as a move from paper to a laptop or as grand as adding virtual goggles to complete repairs while working on the roof.
Trying new technology is no small feat for any company but is essential for growth. New technology allows for the optimization of you and your team. Technology also enhances your customers’ experience.
Products need to be thoroughly investigated before purchase. There are many parts to evaluate; including expenses, business disruption, company training and more.
Our company typically looks at these five things before we consider new technology:
Often as we grow, we add new systems to our existing ones but rarely evaluate the efficiency of our current systems together. Upon looking back, we find that we have several unrelated systems that cause extra work for our employees. Ask your staff what isn't working for them. You'll often find pain points among their recommendations.
Previously our Client Experience team entered new leads into three different places. Our goal with our new CRM system was to ensure the elimination of duplicate work. We wanted one point of entry with integrated systems. Easier said than done. We eventually found one that speaks to our existing system, thus saving our Client Experience Reps more than 10 minutes per interaction. Time saved equates to more efficiencies and more work completed. Efficiency leads to more profit.
Is the cost of the technology reasonable compared to the problem that it solves? You may be willing to pay more if a more significant issue resolves. We recommend evaluating several companies offering similar benefits. Some charge by the user – and if you have a smaller employee base, that may make sense for you. Some charge a flat fee – if you have more employees, this may be more important to you. Some charge per item – so small companies may be attracted, but remember that as you grow, demographics change.
We were evaluating CRMs, and one of our favorites charged per job. If you're building a house, this is a sound system for you. For us, with over 30 jobs per month, it didn't work. We ended up having workarounds to make this system successful for us. Ultimately we chose another similar technology that charged a flat fee and had unlimited jobs and users. Growth is possible with this company.
Evaluation of the complexity of a system looks at several factors. Does utilization take months of training? Is the system intuitive if a user is trying to accomplish a task? Is the guidance within the technology easy to follow if a user needs to do something they don't usually do? I would also add in here, does the system have goofy interfaces. If I need to look at pictures, can I scroll through each one, or do I have to open each one individually? Small issues, over time, become big for your employees. Also, after being burnt by a bad company, we constantly review backup systems (such as printing a customer file for storage). Does the technology allow us to easily copy the data? Do I even own the data? If I leave, how hard will it be to take our data with us?
Upon leaving our old CRM we discovered that their "recommended" way of downloading our historical data didn't give us a usable file; it just gave us a link. A link back to their system that didn't work after they deleted your file. Ultimately, we paid more than $1500 to get our old data out of this system and into a usable form for our new system. Unexpected and frustrating. Lesson learned.
Research your potential tech companies online. Look up their reviews by typing "company name (insert the company name here) reviews" in Google. What do past customers say? Pay attention to the dates of the reviews as companies could have old issues that have been resolved. Does the company care about feedback, respond to system issues, offer good training, and follow up with their customers?
When we left our old CRM and identified that we couldn't extract our data in a usable form, the company we left didn't care. Their treatment of us along the way is the reason we left in the first place. We were lied to during onboarding – the sales rep told us this product did things it didn't (like have a two-way integration with Quickbooks). We also had several issues with files along the way, and the customer service team always had the same canned answers, and none of the problems were ever related to their product. Had we done a better job researching, we could have saved our company a lot of pain and wasted money. Voting with your hard-earned money is a powerful tool.
Often overlooked, evaluating the ability to grow while remaining a customer is essential. Is this a short-term solution, and does the cost/effort reflect that? If so, then you'll most likely go through this process again in 3 to 5 years. Ideally, choosing a technology that wil be long-term is a better business decision, assuming that this area of technology won't be advancing rapidly.
When we evaluated Virtual Reality goggles for our company, some of the earlier models weren't around for long. Thank goodness we were patient and waited to see which company would emerge as the industry leader. Then we invested in that company, saving ours time, reworking and money. Sometimes it pays to sit back and watch for a bit.
Investing in technology is essential for a company that is determined to grow. It keeps the company fresh and attracts new, younger talent. It keeps the company relevant in the business world whether or not the particular industry is innovative. It also allows for the company to scale as they optimize their internal systems' peak performance. Technology is, however, an investment. As with any investment, it pays to do your homework, looking at each investment wisely. Choose the right fit for your individual business needs.
Ask industry leaders what they use. Don't, however, limit your choices to those companies that are in our "industry." Successful companies exist outside of construction that may have more benefits and options.
Wendy Marvin is CEO of Matrix Roofing. See her full bio here.