Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

Top Tech Question for Penny Pinchers: Part 1

Stuff that doesn’t work – that’s what most technology is. Printers that sPenny pinchertop printing. Applications that don’t do what they promised. Computers that freeze up. Thank God Microsoft doesn’t build airplanes or we’d have 747’s dropping out of the sky like flies. Unfortunately, when a relied-on piece of technology, either software or hardware, goes bad it can cripple a small business and cost you a lot of unnecessary money. A good penny pincher will ask himself some hard questions before buying any new technology. Here are few….


1. Who makes it?

Jose, a client of mine purchased a manufacturing application for his business because “it did exactly what I needed it to do!” Boy, was he excited. Until a few months later a function stopped working and when he called up the software maker he found out the line was disconnected. Any pot-smoking high school kid can write up a nifty software application, but buying technology is a lot more than that. If the company can’t be relied on you’ll wind up spending a lot more money than you thought. Do the due diligence.

2. Who supports it?

You know by now that something WILL go wrong. Something that worked fine yesterday will, for no reason at all, stop working today. And right in the middle of trying to get something out the door too! Who will you call? The vendor? A partner? Ghostbusters? Make sure you know who’s going to help you with all the inevitable problems before they occur. Find out how quickly they provide their service. Even if they promise a “24/7 response” give them a buzz at 7pm one evening before you buy just to see if anyone answers the phone. All technology needs support. This stuff just doesn’t work all the time.

3. What are ALL the costs?

Technology vendors are evil, greedy bastards. And those are the nice ones. Think you’re done when you write the first check. No way. Ask about ongoing maintenance and support plans. Don’t want to subscribe to one? Try to get help when you need it. Or try and upgrade or buy a new license when you want to. No way. These vendors want you to pay annually for the privilege of using their technology.

4. What other technology is required to make it work?

If you’re buying software what hardware is required? If you’re buying hardware what software is required? Microsoft’s new customer relationship management software application requires so much additional Microsoft software (i.e. Windows, SQL Server, etc.) that you may spend more on the additional software then the actual product! Know it all before you buy.

5. What services are required to make it work?

Wouldn’t it be great to just plug it in a like a TV? Or click on setup.exe and everything installs itself? Dream on! How else can technology consultants like ourselves justify our existence without convoluted and overly complex tools that requires black box knowledge and other specialized expertise that only a “certified partner” can bring? Find out how much time will be needed by outsiders to get your application or equipment running the right way. Sure, you can do it yourself. But you still haven’t finished painting the kids playroom yet so how are you going to finish this?

To be continued...
Gene Marks
Gene Marks, a columnist, author, and business owner, writes monthly online management and technology columns for Forbes and Business Week and a bi-weekly column that appears nationally in American City Business Journals. His books include Gene\'s books include the #1 Amazon Small Business Best Seller The Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (Adams Media), The Small Business Desk Reference (Alpha Books, 2004), Outfoxing The Small Business Owner - Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship (Adams Media, 2005) and The Complete Idiot\'s Guide To Successful Outsourcing (Alpha Books, 2005).

He owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. Before starting the Marks Group, Marks spent nine years in the entrepreneurial services arm of the international consulting firm KPMG in
Philadelphia where he was a senior manager.
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