Find the right technology by testing and learning quickly
Technology should make life easier, whether it’s speeding up tasks or creating a more accurate picture of your business.
However, leaders need to be wary of adopting something just because it’s well reviewed or has worked well for another company.
To get value for money, it’s important to spend time researching and testing technology before making the leap – and not be afraid to replace anything if it’s not working out.
Improve efficiency and make life easier
Technology plays a key role at energy snack business Outdoor Provisions. Adopting the right technology has allowed the company to scale quickly, keep costs down and manufacture products in a sustainable way.
As a small business, getting a return on investment is a top priority. There are thousands of ways to incorporate technology, but co-founders Christian Smith and Luke Douglas have focused on improving efficiency.
This includes speeding up processes, reducing time wastage and making life easier in general – all things that will set the business up for scalable growth.
For example, the tool used for scheduling social media posts and managing content allows Christian and Luke to automate things so content is posted at the right time. This frees them up to focus on other things.
“I don't think we'd have gotten to where we are so quickly without using these carefully selected bits of tech. We’d have ended up bogged down by more day-to-day tasks,” Luke said.
“I don't think we'd have gotten to where we are so quickly without using these carefully selected bits of tech.”
Luke Douglas, co-founder, Outdoor Provisions
Use online research and reach out to your network
Once Christian and Luke have identified an area where technology could improve the business, they use Google to research what products are available online. They then turn to their network to find out if anyone has used similar systems and can give them advice.
The pair have a clear focus on the features the business needs and aim to strike the right balance between the cost of a system and the extent to which it meets these requirements.
Where the business will go in the future is also an essential consideration. Choosing technology based on current needs alone can be risky and leave businesses tied into systems which stifle growth.
As a result, Christian and Luke often opt for systems which offer functionality beyond what they need right now and give them a good foundation for the future.
The small size of the company means that Outdoor Provisions can test and learn very quickly, but there are lessons bigger businesses can take away too.
Most software offers free trials and short subscriptions – rolling these out to a small section of a business lets you see how they will work in practice before you invest.
“My main tip would be just to give it a go, as long as you're not locked into a long contract and it's not high cost. Use it and see if it works for you. In three to six months you'll have a good idea,” Christian said.
Assess whether technology is meeting needs
Outdoor Provisions frequently reviews the technology it has in place to determine whether it’s meeting needs and providing value for money. Anything that isn’t is replaced.
The ability to be this flexible comes from its small size, but Christian and Luke are conscious that as they grow their ability to move quickly between systems will change. As a result, they’re focusing on getting the right systems in place.
For example, they changed to a different customer relationship management (CRM) system after realising that the product they started out with was not right for them.
“I adopted a CRM that I thought was the pinnacle of CRMs, but actually it was built for much bigger businesses. Within five months we switched to another one which was way better for what we needed to do. It comes back to thinking ‘there must be an easier way to do this’,” said Christian.
location: North West (England)
business size: 1-9 People
business type: Food manufacturing
Top three takeaways
Technology should make your business better and support you. If it isn't making your life easier and delivering the benefits that you wanted, get rid of it.
Before implementing technology, research online and speak to your network. But be mindful that something that works for your peers won’t always be right for you.
With free trials and short subscriptions, you can often test how a system actually performs in your business without the need to make a large financial commitment.