The best part of shopping is when you find something that so perfectly fits your needs or use-cases that you can't imagine life without it.
Take my newest toy: the waffle iron. I’ve always been the kind of person that hates too many gadgets in the kitchen. I value counter space, because I want space to get things done. I made a small compromise of giving up a little bit of that counter space, and now I have the most delicious waffles on the weekend with my family.
There’s no going back to life without a waffle iron.
The decision to purchase said waffle iron involved some serious family politics. Because we were buying it together, we all had certain ideas — even specific features — about what would make the best waffle iron for us. The purchase came out of our family budget, so it needed to meet our requirements in terms of value and usability, but also in terms of financial costs.
Buying New Systems Get Complicated, Fast
Deciding to buy a waffle iron pales when compared to shopping the vast landscape of marketing technology systems.
My family's purchase decision involved three people and a budget under $100. At the extreme end, marketing technology system purchases can potentially involve teams up to 20 or more C-level executives and multi-million dollar budgets — resulting in more opinions to consider and extremely high stakes in terms of investment.
Now that I work on the other side of the fence for a technology company, there’s one very specific thing I don’t miss about the process of procuring digital asset management and content management technologies from the client side: Shopping for and justifying the cost and value to senior leadership.
I also do not envy the VPs and SVPs who put their necks on the line while plaguing themselves with questions such as: Will the tool be used? Will it be a success? What if it is not a success? What are the ramifications to the budget and how does this decision ultimately affect the business and also employee morale? Does it help meet our strategic initiatives for the year and in what ways?
By the time you are in talks with a technology company, you've already had many internal conversations: to identify the need for the new tool or service, the bake-off between companies that offer similar tools or services, tons of demos, email communications and maybe even in-person meetings to answer questions.
Choosing a technology that fits your business is a big undertaking, but what ultimately helps make that purchase decision is someone on the inside with a very good understanding of what is going to help make the best waffle.
It's impossible to find a technology that adapts to your business fully and completely, so go into the search with that in mind. Adaptions will be needed both to and from the technology: the technology must meet your business requirements, but the business process sometimes needs to adapt to meet the technology.
The latter's a more difficult bite to swallow, as changing processes, or rather, changing the behavior of people, is not as simple as picking a tool and paying for it. I could list out several reasons why I really hate taking up counter space in my kitchen, but I think the better point is that I had to change my attitude and behavior to make room for our new purchase literally and figuratively. It turned out I valued the taste of waffles on weekend mornings over a mildly obsessive-compulsive habit to have an empty countertop.
6 Steps to Technology Selection Bliss
There's a few things that your senior leadership — namely your VPs and also your C-level executives — will appreciate hearing about when you make your business case to procure a new technology system.
1. Know the Full Cost
In some businesses, it is actually easier to ask for more than you need initially in terms of budgeting. For businesses that allocate their budget for a year, timing is also very important. How will you manage unexpected one-off costs and can you bake that into your budget for the tool?
Part of knowing the full cost is also knowing the full costs in terms of time and people resources. Once your purchase decision is approved, who, internally, will implement, manage and ensure the success of the tool? Technology can help people solve problems, but doesn't by any means do so autonomously. You still need to make and put the batter into the waffle maker. The waffle is not going to make itself.
2. Shop Around
Shop around because you want to know what else is out there, but you also want to have tangible proof for your senior leadership that you have done your homework. What is comparable in value and what led you to make the choice you made?
3. Don’t Let the Number of Choices Overwhelm You
While shopping around for similar technology solutions is important, if the space is very niche, don’t feel pressured to have a set number of alternatives. Some tools are extremely specific and may not have many comparable alternatives in terms of features and capabilities.
4. Features are Great, But Does Quantity Always Trump Quality?
This is an important one to consider. I’ve often got caught up on what a tool cannot do, and more often than not, it was a feature set that only applied to me as an administrator of the technology, and not necessarily a feature set important for the end-user.
The end-users' opinions should carry greater weight when it comes to the feature set, yet they are often not involved in the purchase decision. Much like a representative in congress, it’s your job to speak for and represent the people who will ultimately be affected.
5. Beware the ROI Rabbit Hole
A number of buzzwords out there are fun if not obnoxious to hear. ROI is one of them. Showing return on investment for technology systems is a tall order, especially in terms of tangibility. People are eager to show value by demonstrating cost savings in dollar amounts, and while important, they can easily skew these numbers or leave out important factors that affect the results.
Quantifying value is tough. While the process of procuring a new technology for your business involves the technology company really selling you and your colleagues on it, you have a duty to also sell it to your team and your senior leadership. Getting buy-in means being convincing, showing value and closing the deal. It also means speaking up if you feel like good technology choices are getting pushed out during the selection process for invalid reasons.
6. You're Never Done
Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, you’re all done right? Nope. Now begins the most difficult part of the process.
The actual implementation involves people, process and technology. There's always going to be that one person who says that it won’t work or that there’s something better out there. Don’t spend too much time on this person, because they will either come around or they won’t. The world will keep turning and there will be waffles at some point.
You'll Never Please Everyone
Getting buy-in does not mean everyone agrees wholeheartedly with your decision. It means that a decision has been made, leadership is on board, and you have your team of supporters and champions who will help you showcase the value of the product or tool to the rest of the company.
Just remember all the hard work you have done to get to that point, and enjoy the taste of your delicious, hard-won waffles.