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By Gene Marks

You don’t have a lot of technology resources inside your company. In fact, just getting your office printer to work all the time seems like a monumental challenge. Investing in technology, whether it’s new software or hardware means dealing with a lot of stuff that just may not work like you expected. But it’s the twenty-first century, and the days of index cards, one-write systems and 2 martini lunches are long gone. You need technology to get things done. So before investing in the greatest-and-greatest-whiz-bang-gotta-have gadget that promises to turn your entire business into a financial powerhouse, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

1. Who makes it? If your business is going to significantly rely on a new inventory management system then you better find out everything you can about who made the system. Where are they located? How long have they been around? Are they financially strong? Will they be around next year? Great technology has great companies behind them. You’re going to find yourself with a new partner, and like any new partner you’ll want to make sure to do as much research about them as possible.

2. Who supports it? You know by now that something WILL go wrong. Something that worked fine yesterday will, for no reason at all, stop working today. And right in the middle of trying to get something out the door too! Who will you call? The vendor? A Partner? Ghostbusters? Make sure you know who’s going to help you with all the inevitable problems before they occur. Find out how quickly they provide their service. Even if they promise a “24/7 response” give them a buzz at 7PM one evening before you buy just to see if anyone answers the phone. All technology needs support. This stuff just doesn’t work all the time.

3. What are all the costs? That new order entry application may only cost a few thousand dollars. But what about the annual maintenance and support? How about training, customization, technical questions, installation? Don’t be surprised if all of this stuff is extra. Get all the costs upfront, including what you’ll be required to spend on an annual basis.

4. What other technology is required to make it work? If you’re buying software what hardware is required? If you’re buying hardware what software is required? Microsoft’s new customer relationship management software application requires so much additional Microsoft software (i.e. Windows, SQL Server, etc.) that you may spend more on the additional software then the actual product! Know it all before you buy.

5. What services are required to make it work? Wouldn’t it be great to just plug it in a like a TV? Or click on setup.exe and everything installs itself? Dream on! How else can technology consultants like ourselves justify our existence without convoluted and overly complex tools that requires black box knowledge and other specialized expertise that only a “certified partner” can bring? Find out how much time will be needed by outsiders to get your application or equipment running the right way. Sure, you can do it yourself. But you still haven’t finished painting the kids playroom yet so how are you going to finish this?

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Gene Marks owns The Marks Group, PC.
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