The technological innovations achieved in the last few decades have formed a revolution in our profession and home lives and recently, it can feel like these disruptive advances are being introduced on a weekly basis. Although these new technologies offer a variety of solutions and services, they seem united by a singular intention: to increase efficiency and productivity.
For users, this state of constant revision can lead to us being lost in the chatter; adopting ‘upgrades’ perfunctorily; without questioning their actual benefit. Alternatively, we become ‘tech-luddites,’ shying from change and struggling onwards with obsolete tools (we have all seen those workplaces where the fax machine is still the centrepiece of the office). Both can have disastrous repercussions on businesses, so how can you ensure your adoption of these changes offers a positive return on investment? A great start might be asking these simple questions:
1. Where does my business need to work better?
Technology doesn’t need to be highly technical. Rather than focussing on the system itself, often a good place to start is evaluating where an area of your business can be improved. When you have a general idea of a solution; try to be as specific as possible. If, for example, it is your AV systems preventing you from developing relationships with clients; what detailed demands do you have of AV that will demonstrate a strong return on investment?
Once you have identified where a potential investment can help support and improve facets of your business, you can begin to develop tools that are tailored to your tasks and applications.
Questions to ask
What is the potential fallout of not investing in the system?
How do our IT resources compare with our competitors?
How will this new technology work alongside our other resources?
How will the new system demonstrate improvement and added value?
2. Who will use this technology?
After deciding on what you need, you need to know who will use it. The technology itself offers no value if the team or persons are not literate with the system.
Many companies purchase new tools without offering training and time to ‘play’ with the device or application. This can create a culture of resistance and, at the very least, slows the pace of adoption within the business. By offering hands-on experience and training, staff will begin to understand the potential benefits of the change; creating greater degrees of productivity.
When at the purchasing stage, ask if the potential supplier provides training; this is often offered free of charge as it helps demonstrate the value of the solution. Furthermore; it is often a good idea to appoint an individual to become the ‘product guru’ – taking responsibility for training others; basic support and quarterly ‘refresher’ courses to ensure everyone is using the device optimally.
Questions to ask
Do we have the capabilities needed to extract optimal value from our existing IT systems?
What is our plan for improving employee IT literacy?
Do our teams have enough tech know-how?
Who will be responsible for managing the technology’s success?
3. What are the total costs involved in Ownership?
When you have found a product you are interested in, it is prudent to find out all the costs associated with the technology. Installation, maintenance; service and support might seem expensive at first but need to be looked at in detail and with an eye for future proofing; especially if there is a total technological upheaval (for example, updating to faster PCs). Asking ‘what if’ scenarios are often important to have in writing from the potential supplier. Questions, such as ‘what if the system is down on the weekend?’ are crucial to managing any potential obstacles further down the line.
Cloud solutions and licences can often seem like a long term cost for something that might be prudent to purchase instantaneously. However, the flexibility; robustness and operational support of these systems can pay dividends and ensure you don’t have to replace your investment every 6 months.
Questions to ask
How much will we be spending on the solution on an annual basis?
Are there additional costs for support, training and maintenance?
How long does it take to get the system up and running?
4. How do we monitor the effectiveness of the tech?
Measuring the usefulness of IT systems can prove nebulous and often, large masses of technical data are presented instead of a set of business-relevant metrics. This can make it difficult to uncover the benefits of the solution. By creating a clearly defined strategy on an annual basis, agility, efficiency and risks can be taken into account to ensure you are getting the most out of the solutions you have employed. When speaking to a potential provider, it is important to ask how these aspects can be tracked and presented in an easy to understand way. Treating your investment like you would a potential employee will help ensure you receive maximum value from the solution.
Questions to ask
What is the roadmap for success with the product?
Does it reduce costs in its life cycle and how can this be monitored?
What is the clearest way of showing progress?
5. How will we change our workplace to integrate this new technology?
When integrating tangible tech; there is not only power and data to consider but the confines of the space. If you were to implement video conferencing technology in an cellular room; how does the echo effect the quality of the call? Are the noise levels from the open plan area outside affecting the call? Speaking to office interior firms can help with understanding the layout and many AV installers can offer insight into these factors.
When purchasing applications and software, understanding workplace layout can still prove beneficial. A great example might be the many systems (we are a big fan of Google Drive) now offering real-time editing tools to support cross-collaboration across the globe. This can have a profound effect on how the office is laid out with many of our clients reducing the office floor plate and creating touchdown spaces throughout the office with AV suites for telepresence when editing.
Questions to ask
How much space needs to be allocated to the technology?
What kind of tasks will be undertaken in the workspace?
How can we optimise the office layout to improve the solution’s usage?
Does the layout work for the users interacting with the technology?
Adapting to mainstream advances in technology is critical to businesses; ensuring not only that you’re able to increase workplace efficiency and productivity, but to open new pathways to potential clients and drive market growth. A large part of this – like any investment – is knowing the right questions to ask.