Is That New Tech (Chatbots, AI, Blockchain) Really Valuable for Your Business? How to Find Out.
There are a lot of shiny new objects out there. Here's how to stay current and spend wisely.
With all the shiny new options available for businesses, the temptation is to latch on to the trendiest tech offerings. But just as new opportunities are arising, those opportunities are also being redefined. Technology is a moving target -- and should be -- but that movement is challenging to businesses trying to keep up.
Take chatbots for instance. "Chatbots are poised to fundamentally change the way humans interact with machines within a five-year horizon," Matt Swanson, managing partner at Silicon Valley Software Group, wrote in VentureBeat.
"The starting point will not be personal assistants, or chatbot "apps,' but rather the investment that businesses make in order to drive their topline and bottomline metrics (starting with support and moving into sales/marketing)," Swanson wrote.
Whether it's chatbots or blockchain or some other emerging technology, getting started with any new tech trend is not a trivial decision. So, it's helpful to have a basic game plan for responding to changes in the technological landscape.
Let's look at a few ways you can stay current and spend wisely when you're seeking to leverage the best of what the newest tech has to offer.
1. Get past "cool" and identify the value.
Just because there's a new gadget on the market doesn't mean your company needs to acquire it. Instead, always look for concrete ways that it might benefit your business. Knowing how technology could accelerate your business is an art. To do it well, follow the advice of entrepreneur, speaker and futurist Nicklas Bergman.
He suggests starting with asking the right questions. As Bergman wrote in Business 2 Community: "From an industry perspective, ask yourself what your competitors are doing. Are they moving in new directions? Attacking your customers in a new way?"
Next, see things from your customers' point of view, taking into account their technological proclivities. For example, are they indicating a desire for AI-powered products and services? Or is your niche perhaps at a momentary standstill? Might this lull present opportunities to offer new technology that will grab customer attention?
Finally, Bergman recommends exploring how a technology could cut costs or make your business more efficient, such as might occur if you implemented a solution that uses today's AI.
2. When it comes to support, hold your own hand.
Although many new products come with support, don't rely on it entirely, for two reasons.
First, vendor documentation sometimes isn't as good as it could be, and you will want to supplement it to make sure a technology is being used effectively. Second, your business's objectives are particular ones, so having additional support that integrates technology into your context will produce the most effective results.
To get this process of effective support started, designate staff to lead it and to design the necessary training events and documentation. That documentation should guide employees based on their needs at your company, not just general use, and it should be easily accessible and searchable online.
Once you have your support in place, don't let it wither. People need time to get comfortable using technology and gain momentum with it. During this transition, make sure employees aren't getting frustrated through a failure to understand the new tech.
Even after you've fully integrated it into your workflow, don't leave new employees to flounder with technology that's unfamiliar to them. By maintaining a current and well-thought-out support system, you'll give your new technology the very best chance of benefiting your company for the long haul.
3. Make sure you're getting the expected bang for your buck.
Finally, it's important to scrutinize whether a technology is actually creating value at your company. There is a tendency to get excited about a new option at work, particularly if it is tied to a large purchase decision and commitment -- and that's understandable.
But that excitement can obscure the need for a careful evaluation of how the technology is being used and what value it's actually providing for your company.
Plan how you will assess value from the start, even before you acquire the technology. That plan should include both the technical problems your teams are experiencing as well as the perceived difficulties they may be feeling. In order to gather these insights, you'll need to conduct scheduled surveys or at least hold sessions with employees in which their feedback on using the technology is collected and later analyzed.
Change is the fuel of business, and the tech world offers a bounty of opportunities to enhance your operations. This means that adopting new technologies into your business isn't really optional.
Fortunately, by applying these few simple rules, you can assess new technology in a way that responds effectively to your team, your competitors and your customers.
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