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Choosing the right technology

Choosing the right technology

Technology changes, IT evolves, and people are constantly finding new solutions to old problems. But the core of what our clients need from us remains the same. They want the expertise that comes from 30+ years of IT experience. And they want the peace of mind of knowing they are in safe hands when it comes to navigating the ever-changing world of IT.

One of the most commonly asked questions that we come across is which technology is ‘right’ for a given business. And while we would love to have a quick and easy answer to that question, it’s obviously not that simple.

The honest answer is… it depends.

Your needs are going to be unique to your business, and so the right solution for you has to take into account a whole range of factors, including the type of business you have, how you typically interact with your customers, who those customers are, how big your business is, what budget you have available, what your priorities are, and so on.

Some general advice to get started

Having said there are no quick answers, there are some general guidelines to consider when deciding on the right technology for your business.

Do you need a website?

This is probably one of the easiest questions to answer, because the answer is almost certainly yes. Modern consumers are most likely to source products or services by looking online and if you don’t have a presence online, you are as good as handing those customers to a competitor.

Today’s consumers expect to be able to do some research before they make a buying decision. They want to be able to find out about the company they are buying from, read reviews, and check where you are and what you do. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your website can be found, and contains accurate and up to date information.

When it comes to deciding on exactly what content to add to your website, and how you promote it (e.g. organic or paid traffic, etc), that is going to depend on who your customers are, and what they expect from you. Understanding your ideal customers, and catering specifically to their needs is incredibly important.

Do you need a Mobile App?

Apps can be a great way to engage in a meaningful way with your customers. But you need to give them a reason to download it in the first place.

If you are selling insurance, for example, an app is not usually the best approach for offering quotes. After all, who wants to download 30 insurance company apps to find the cheapest price? Most people prefer to visit a comparison website for that.

However, once your customer has purchased a policy, an app can be an easy way for them to access documents, and even submit a claim. In this case, the convenience of having an app could even be a selling point when it comes to choosing a policy.

This example illustrates the importance of understanding your customers’ needs at each point in the buying journey, and delivering a solution that fulfills those needs. Once you understand this, you can target investment in the business in a way that is most likely to see returns.

Should you buy ‘off the shelf’ or develop a bespoke solution?

In many business sectors, there are long established products that will cover many of the key areas you need. Buying an ‘off the shelf’ product is often a cost effective solution and much quicker and cheaper than building a bespoke system.

There are some significant caveats to this, though.

  • Always find out where your data is being stored, and who is responsible for ensuring that it is secure and backed up. If you’re choosing a cloud solution, you are trusting the vendor to manage that properly.

  • Make sure you understand the level of commitment you are making, and the implications for future costs. Investigate the exit plan, and ensure that you can easily get your data out when you need to. If you’re locked in, the vendor has more scope to push prices up when they choose to.

  • Check to see how configurable the product is, and make sure it meets your needs. Can you use your company name or logo on screens and documents? Does it allow you to adapt it to your working practices or will you have to change the way you work to use it?

  • Check if the vendor provides a way to request new features or customisations. It may not matter initially, but as you use the product in real life scenarios, there’s a chance that you might uncover requirements that you hadn’t thought of before.

  • Ensure you know how often updates are made, and find out if there is a cost for these. A regular update strategy is a must these days, to ensure products remain secure and functional. A product that has not been updated for years should be a warning sign to keep away.

There are a number of reasons why you might choose to go for a bespoke solution. If you find that existing products don’t provide the level of functionality that you require, or you have unique processes, then a bespoke software solution may well be the best option.

A bespoke system will be developed to meet your exact requirements, and you’ll only pay for the features that you need. While the upfront costs of a bespoke solution may be considerably higher than an ‘off the shelf’ product, it can offer significant long-term benefits, and give you a decisive advantage over your competitors.

What should your development team be using?

For businesses that have some level of in-house IT capability, how do you make sure your team is using the right languages and development tools?

The simple answer is that the best development languages are the ones your team is familiar with, and the ones your systems are already written in. It’s no good deciding to switch to something else, unless you are sure your team can support it.

On the other hand, supporting old, unfashionable technologies and tools can make recruitment harder. The best developers prefer to work with the latest tools, and if you adhere too rigidly to older ways of working, you may find it harder to bring top talent into your business.

Technologies change all the time and new solutions appear frequently. Finding a balance between not getting left behind with legacy systems, whilst maximising your investment in the systems you have already built is an ongoing challenge to even the biggest and best organisations. This is where it’s important to have experienced consultants on your side.

Making the right decisions

IT can be expensive, but no company can do without it. There is always pressure to look into the latest ‘must have’ technology. Bespoke work can be prohibitively expensive. And recruiting the right talent often comes with a fairly hefty salary. Regardless of the size of your business, there is always a limit to the budget you can invest, and you need to ensure you’re getting the best value from that investment. For many SMEs, having an IT expert within the business who can manage this for them is a luxury they cannot afford. That’s when it becomes necessary to rely on external partners who can offer the right advice. But choosing one can be a minefield.

Design agencies are ten-a-penny. Often, the products they offer look great ... on the surface. But often there is a lack of solid technology and expertise backing this up.

IT consultants can provide a valuable service, but it’s important to make sure they are offering expert impartial advice for your business, and there’s no agenda to the guidance they offer.

Reach Aware is an independent company. We don’t earn commissions from selling any particular vendor's products or services. Instead, we offer sound advice based on the best interests of your business, and backed up by years of industry experience.

We care passionately about making your business a success. We are here for the long term and want to build an ongoing relationship, based not on lock-ins or misleading contracts but by providing a valuable and reliable service you can trust.

We have the knowledge and expertise to provide you with the best advice and a real understanding of how to apply it, based on years of hands-on development experience gained in a wide range of industries and companies - from small start-ups to blue-chip enterprises. And in addition to consultation services, we can offer bespoke software development, and systems integration which allows you to link from your existing systems to other products and services.

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