By Mike Herrington

There are a huge number of technology solutions on the market today and every business has unique needs. The road to finding the right solutions for your business can be tricky. Experience has repeatedly taught us that asking LOTS of quality questions is critical.

Your business is unique and deserves a technology solution made to fit. The only way to understand it is to take the time to learn about your business. What kind of work do you do? What technology are you currently using? Do you like it? What is great about it? What do you hate about it? What is a typical workflow like for your organization? Is there manual entry at any point of the process? What current processes could be streamlined?

And there are many more questions.

By taking the time to understand your business objectives, needs, processes and current solutions, a technology partner can then recommend solutions that are a good fit. They can act in your best interest and make strategic recommendations.

I recently consulted with a sizable HVAC company. They have a bunch of field technicians that are out working on service calls all day and several office staff that do accounting, dispatch, customer service, etc. They initially engaged me because they said they wanted to change out their main business application that they use for scheduling service calls. This would be a major organizational change requiring new hardware infrastructure and significant investment. I started asking some questions about why they wanted a change.

They responded that the application didn’t integrate with their accounting software and that they couldn’t access it remotely. We discussed the other functionality of the application and they said that they liked how it handled scheduling, and that the mobile portion of the application their field technicians used to handle point of sale was quite slick.

I kept asking questions and eventually got to the one that counted: “If we could fix the integration with your accounting software and make this application accessible from outside, would it meet your needs?” The answer was “yes.” The cost of training all their staff on a new piece of software seemed daunting and through our interview I could tell that they were happy except for a couple of features that were missing. Also, the company had invested heavily in its current solution.

After we got to the root of their problem, the solution was simple. We offered to spin up a hosted server for them in our data center to house both their main business application as well as their accounting software. This made the solution accessible from the outside.

A little research identified that their current solution could integrate with their accounting software, but that it simply needed a different version than they were currently using. We got them upgraded to the right version of the software and suddenly the solution was just the right fit for their business.

Even better news for the business owner was that this was a fraction of the cost of replacing the entire system. In addition, there was no lost productivity from training on new software or downtime associated with making a change. The right questions drive the right solution.

When talking to a solutions provider, what approach do they take? Do they spend an hour telling you how great the are, how many certifications they have or how they can sell the biggest solutions? Alternatively, do they ask questions, listen intently and only talk about a solution after they understand the need? If you’re wondering, the second guy is the one you want to be working with.

Take the time to understand the need. Bring in folks from different departments to discuss, if needed. Ask lots of questions, and you’ll be surprised what you find. The time spent understanding the need will reap dividends that will pay you back 100-fold in productivity in the years to come.

Mike Herrington is the manager of business development at i.t.NOW.

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