Known as their Smart Tech program the Canadian Business Development Bank (BDC) has launched an aggressive program to provide financial support for Canadian business investments in various forms of information technology, or IT as it is commonly known.
In one of their recent newsletters they feature a trucking company and its President telling the story of how they supported their growth by replacing outmoded technology that was holding them back.
Buyers of IT often have a hard time since it is unfamiliar territory for most businesses. Advice can be conflicting and the choices can often be confusing. Often purchasers go with the most common solution for their industry, a sort of follow the leader approach. This can work but it also can mean that you end up with a solution that does not innovate but leaves you with the 'same as, same as' which follows the industry norm. This may be a good safe bet but technology is a rapidly changing field and doing a survey of options for your needs is important.
I just talked to a client that bought a fully functioning document management system from us a few years ago and he says the cost was easily justified as compared to what others in the industry were buying at the time. Even better the system has continued to scale as they have grown and integrated it to the point where it is "simply part of our standard practice", in his words.
A proper needs assessment is also important with any technology acquisition and critical with an IT purchase. The levels of pricing can be very different with hardware and software and since you are looking to obtain long term benefit from your investment you want to be sure to match your requirements to the proposed solutions. Too often unfamiliar buyers will design the choice around what the vendor offers. This is opposite of what you should do by deciding first what you need and then seeking the solutions that best match those defined needs. Vendors can help but often will not give you the total picture you need.
Seek help if you are on new ground
Getting good advice from someone with more knowledge when you are in unfamiliar territory is advisable. This may come from a vendor, financial advisor, professional consultant or other source depending upon the technology you seek. No matter what choice you make it is helpfull to talk to someone who has done it before as they will ask questions you will never have considered and will point you to solutions which might not have been evident at first glance.
Document a detailed implementation plan
Once you decide on the technology you are adoptiing take the time and have the patience to detail a complete implementation plan. We recently did this with a VOIP phone change and in the end it worked well with little disruption or challenge. I have heard of others doing similar work that took weeks to get right.
Building out a plan and understanding the needed components not only helps you budget correctly, it becomes the basis for allocating the work to be performed whether you are using internal or external resources. It also makes it possible to inform your employees who will be affected by the implementation of the timing and what they should expect. Often technology changes are setup, designed and purchased without any involvement from the frontline workers who will be expected to work with the changed systems. When they get informed ahead of time and shown what the improvements are to be there is a better chance for success and acceptance. When hurdles do arise they also will be readier to address them with the implementation team as they have been given the feeling that their involvement is welcomed.
Investment Can be Critical
The BDC Smart Tech program covers all of the elements of a solid innovation investment. You can bundle hardware, software and services into one package and apply their loan dollars to the complete system. This is an important consideration as it is often harder to find financing for the softer costs in a computer or other system upgrade.
Would access to proper financing provide you the incentive to upgrade your IT systems? Do you look at IT expenditures as a cost or an investment in productivity and competiveness?
Share your thoughts.