Valuing Ownership

Pick the right tool for the job

It’s Your Business, Own the Solution

I work with companies that want to shop for software or hardware and will ask for me “to just figure it out, I don’t understand any of that stuff.”  Be very careful about that approach in your own business.  A vendor, no matter how diligent, will never understand your business or your needs completely.  Some won’t even try.  I know that I want to solve your problem in the best way that I can, but I don’t understand all of your needs, your business strategy or what’s important to you.  I will do my very best but I can only ever understand what I understand.  The problem from my standpoint as the vendor is that I may unwittingly give you the wrong solution for your problem because I didn’t understand everything and you didn’t understand the technology.  There has to be a better solution…there is a better solution.
Technology is very confusing and intimidating to a lot of people.  Don’t let that keep you from understanding what someone is doing to your business, or making sure that someone in your business understands.  If you have a team, this is a great opportunity to assign a process or product owner.  Assign someone who understands your business…someone inside of your business.  That person needs to understand what’s important to your business and what you’re trying to accomplish.  They don’t need to understand the technology, they need to be able to ask what the outcomes, costs and guarantees will be.  Your vendor is then responsible for answering those questions and being able to align your objectives with the solutions that are available and explaining the options in a way that you can understand.  When the explanation isn’t clear, ask again and keep asking until it is clear.  If the vendor is really a partner, as we are all hoping they will be, they won’t mind. I can tell you that I prefer it.  I’d rather make sure that you help in deciding what is best for your business and that you are comfortable with the answer.
Of course, that product owner may very well be you.  Then you need to understand your objectives.  Regardless of who it is, here are some questions that the product owner needs to be able to answer:
  • What are we trying to solve?  What is the problem?  What capability do you need?  You need to be able to articulate this in a way that it’s clear what the business objective is.  At the end of the day, what do you need to be able to do?  Answering these simple questions will go a long way toward getting the right solution.
  • What’s it worth to the business? Many small business owners, often cash starved, want to make the cheapest most expedient decision.  Sometimes, that’s the right decision.  Know what it’s worth and the outcome of it breaking.  Cheaper software and hardware will often fail more often or more readily. Support may not be as good.  Being able to answer the question of the value to your business will help you decide what kind of investment you need to make.
  • What’s required to support it? You need to know the cost of support.  There may be a very powerful, but technical solution to your problem.  If you aren’t technically inclined then the cute, less technical solution but less feature rich option may be for you.  If you’re going to have to constantly pay someone to help you then it may not be worth it.  Know the value of your own time and your team’s time and try to get an understanding and a feel for how much care and feeding any solution will take.  Sometimes, you just need something that works, even if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.
While there are always other questions that can be asked, just being able to define these three things will go a long way to finding the right solution whether it’s a computer, a printer or the latest gadget.  Ever seen a fancy smartphone that does everything but wash the dishes but you can’t figure out how to make a phone call on it?  Maybe something is simpler rather than call your 8 year old to help you every time you need to listen to your voicemail.

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