Eye on the Ball: Invest in Tools, Not Results

In many ways, 2015 is the year of the smaller companies. The scalability and innovation of cloud computing architectures, coupled with the advanced visibility of new analytics technology has allowed small, medium and still growing businesses to not only operate like, but effectively compete with enterprise-level juggernauts. For the first time in the global era of business, David-sized companies are capable of acting, thinking and producing like Goliaths.
Yet, even as the playing field has gradually become more level, there is still one aspect in which smaller companies are at a slight disadvantage, and that’s budget. As a small or growing business, you can’t spend money on software the same way enterprises do, buy first assess later. Resources are limited, and you need to spend wisely. It’s important to look past the bells and whistles and really hone in on what matters most: will this purchase make my company more efficient, effective and ultimately more profitable?
Here is a look at 6 key factors to consider when assessing new business technology.
1. Implementation
Implementation is first on the list for good reason. Raise your hand if you’ve ever suffered through a software implementation that was over budget, past deadline, poorly rolled out or poorly adopted? Odds are most of you have endured more than one. It’s possibly the most frustrating, counter-intuitive, even asinine aspect of yester-business. What is the point in investing large amounts of time, money and expertise in a solution aimed at fixing a specific pain point, when the whole process introduces a host of new pain points? Implementation should always be front of mind when assessing software.
Yet, implementation doesn’t have to be a dirty word anymore either. The cloud has bestowed simple affordable and straightforward implementations. So straightforward, that some solutions are installed with just one click. Make sure whatever purchases you make will allow you to hit the ground running, and will be live in days, not months.
2. Speed
Speed is imperative in today’s marketplace. Barriers to entry are at an all-time low, while competition is an all-time high. Product life cycles are shortening, customer demand is rapidly shifting quarter to quarter and technological development is in relentless acceleration. Hesitation could mean elimination. Your goal should be to remain as efficient as possible. There is no excuse for manual steps in 2015. Automate everything you can and find ways to streamline recurring business processes like quoting, contracts, billing and revenue management. Shortening cycles by percentage points can improve margins twofold. Speed is your best weapon against size.
3. Responsiveness
How quickly will your investment allow you to adjust to market shifts and customer needs? Successful companies today are able to illustrate value hour by hour not quarter by quarter. Take advantage of the big data’s pervasiveness, and look for software with predictive and prescriptive analytics which will help you see around corners and remain more responsive than your competition. Aspects such as real-time dashboards, granular insight, regionalized strategies are ways to remain responsive both to changing markets as well as understanding internally which of your processes are effective, and which need adjusting.
4. Impact on Margins
Will your investment drive revenue? How does it impact your margins? As a small company, it’s not enough to simply be cost effective. Any investment you make should increase your revenue and help you close deals faster. An excellent way to measure is with Revenue Velocity.

5. Scalability

Don’t just invest in the now, prepare your business for the next stage as well. Always have your future in mind. Make sure whatever you purchase is a turnkey solution that scales over time to meet your future business needs.
6. Usefulness
This may seem fundamental, but don’t ever underestimate the obvious. Google’s CEO Larry Page follows one simple rule when acquiring new companies, and Google acquires a lot! At one point, they were swallowing up logos at a rate of one acquisition a week. Mr. Page will only invest in a company if they pass the Toothbrush Test: “Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?”
Remember, there will never be a shortage of razzle dazzle in the tech world. The steps above are a great guideline to not just keeping your prioritization in order, but building towards the future. Giving yourself the right tools is the next step for both your own organization and (more importantly), your customers.