In the small tech world, it seems like there’s always some software, hardware, service, or gadget that is claiming to be The Next Big Thing. You know, the kind of technology that promises to revolutionize your business and the world. The problem is, it can be hard to figure out early on if The Next Big Thing is the real deal (think: iPhone), or just unmerited hype (think: Google Glass).
It can be especially hard for a small business owner to decide if it’s worth spending your hard-earned money on the new technology. How do you distinguish hype from truth? We’ve collected five key questions to ask yourself the next time you hear about The Next Big Thing and find yourself wanting to hop aboard.
When adopting a new technology consider the impact it may have on other areas of your business. For instance does this Next Big Thing affect your insurance needs? It’s a good idea to check your insurance coverage. Changes to your business often create new risks, so it may be time to review a guide to risk management.
1. “What Will the ROI Be?”
As a small business, you need every dollar you spend to provide a return on your investment. You don’t have the cash flow of a Fortune 500 company to gamble on investments that might not pan out. When The Next Big Thing’s (let’s shorten that to TNBT from now on) hype machine is hard at work, you’ll hear a lot of vague promises and marketing speak about what it can do for your business. Ignore it. Do your own homework. Ask questions. Speak to those who have tried it. Try it yourself. Make projections. Consult your accountant. Before you spend anything, make sure you know exactly how TNBT is going to make your money back and how soon.
2. “Will This Help My Business Grow?”
If you’re happy with the answer you came up with above, go one step further and ask, “How much will TNBT grow my business?” Adopting a new tech should always mean pushing your business forward. So, look at how TNBT could change your business. Will it streamline productivity, expand your services, connect you with more customers? You want to be sure new tech generates new and better business that will see your company improve and grow.
3. “How Much Will It Really Cost Me?”
Most technology comes with two costs: the one you see, and the one you don’t. Take printers, for example. On one hand, there’s what you pay for the printer. On the other hand, there’s the hidden long-term costs like ink cartridges, repairs, paper, and set-up. TNBT in tech is no different. It can come with installation fees, needed upgrades, employee training, and more. When you’re thinking about integrating TNBT into your business, be sure you’re aware of all the costs involved. Most importantly, be sure you can afford them.
4. “Do I Really Need This Now?”
Frequently, TNBT sounds so exciting, so game-changing, you’ll feel like your business needs it right now. The reality is, that’s not always the case. When hype swirls around a new tech, it can be more about what it will do some day, not what it can do right now. Or, it may not even be properly tested, developed, or functional yet (think: the widely unpopular Windows 8). You wouldn’t buy an unripe banana and then eat it right away, would you? So, ask yourself: “Is this something I need immediately? Do I feel this technology is ready right now?” You may find you do need it right now. And that’s okay. Just make sure you’ve honestly answered that question for yourself before diving into TNBT.
5. “Do I Want It Because It’s Cool, or Because It’s Actually Useful for My Business?”
It’s the job of the company releasing TNBT to make the product sound like the coolest thing since the iPhone. They pay a lot of money to create marketing buzz that will make you feel completely left out if you don’t get their product. But just because something sounds cool, doesn’t mean it’s actually useful (think: the Apple Watch). So, before you get too far along in your decision process, take a moment to step back and ask yourself whether it’s something your business really needs. If you’re a cloud accounting software company, chances are you probably don’t need a 3D printer—no matter how cool it is.
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