Part of the critical thinking process involves evaluating your goals and then looking at the reality of your assets.
Consider your business goals first and foremost, then look at what it’s going to take to meet your goals … in short, focus on your requirements before getting romanced by “features.”
So what are you trying to achieve?
Once you’ve nailed down those goals, you can move on to thinking through the technology that will help you get there.
Now that you know where you want to be, you need to assess where you are now.
What tech resources do you already have in place? If your business is a startup, you’re likely starting from scratch; for companies that have been around awhile, situations usually vary quite a bit.
You may have invested in your software and infrastructure , but find that it isn’t working out the way you envisioned it.
You may find that keeping old technology isn’t saving you money at all in the long run and the expense of upgrading will be well worth the cost.
You may need to make a lot of new technology investments in order to have an effective set-up, or you may be able to use a good bit of what you have and only have to add a few new resources.
Whatever your circumstances, it helps to take inventory.
(Want an unbiased look at your have’s and have-nots? Get experts outside your company to give you a quick analysis of your situation; at UpTop, we sometimes do a lightweight version of this process, which is usually referred to as a “gap analysis.”)
So what are some examples of common-sense scenarios companies have to work through with regards to technology infrastructure?
Content management systems
Are you publishing content to multiple websites and/or a mobile app through separate systems?
In an ideal world, you’d have a single content management system (CMS) that could manage all of your content – publishing to all your website and your mobile app.
Managing multiple sets of content updates can be time-consuming and error-prone, so you need to consider the worth of investing in a technology solution that can streamline the process.
Let’s say you need an app to handle tasks such as remote timecards or workorders. You can buy a ready-made app that’s not integrated into your system, or you can build one that integrates with your system.
Again, this comes down to thinking about what works for you financially and what works in the short-run and the long-run.
For Company A, the cost of building an app that integrates with its system may be a great investment in the long run; maintaining an app/its data separately may not make sense.
But Company B may find an off-the-shelf tool works just fine for its needs.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems
First and foremost, do you already have an ERP system? (This is an umbrella term often used to refer to inventory, CRM and/or accounting systems.)
If the answer is yes, consider whether it has all the capabilities you need going forward. For instance, can you integrate mobile apps into your ERP?
Let’s say a company has an ERP system that manages pricing, customers and inventory. It now wants to sell its products via a mobile app; how will the company handle tracking the mobile app’s sales? Does it need to replace its ERP or should the company design something to integrate?
Here are a few factors to consider:
Look at your software, the systems you own and the systems you subscribe to (SaaS applications) …. what do you have hosted externally? What do you have onsite?
Steering clear of the “wow”
One final bit of advice… Resist the temptation to “refresh” your website or apps just based on your own feeling that it is old and tired or – to use a phrase I hear a lot – because you think your digital footprint need a “wow” factor.
I see companies change sites based on whim rather than analytics, spending a lot of money to make changes that are not rooted in a true business problem.
Instead, stop and look at real indicators (sales, ROI, projected growth, change in the numbers of users, etc.) that you can actually measure – because you definitely can’t measure “wow factor.”