High-Tech Check: Think Before You Shop

Here are 12 questions contractors should ask themselves before investing in new technology.
High-Tech Check: Think Before You Shop
(Photo credit: Harland Quarrington/MOD)

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Newer! Better! Faster! There’s nothing like the feeling of unwrapping a piece of brand-new equipment designed to catapult your business into the future. However, if the purchase doesn’t deliver as expected, it can inspire a whole other set of feelings. Here are 12 questions contractors should ask themselves before making a significant investment in new technology. 

1. Does the technology actually meet a business need you can identify?
Determine exactly which shortcomings in your business the new equipment will address. Quantify how much faster you expect to work or how much money the new technology is expected to save.

2. Is this new technology the best way that you could meet that need?
Perhaps upgrading existing equipment or training employees to acquire additional skills are better investments.

3. Will purchasing this equipment allow the company to offer a service it has never offered before?
If the answer is “yes,” determine whether the service is something that your customers are willing to pay for. There needs to be added value for the customer.

4. Will customers be required to make any changes on their end to accommodate the new technology?
If so, ask them if they’re willing to be flexible to take advantage of your new offerings. 

5. What would happen if you waited until next year?
In 12 months, the cost of the new technology may drop and initial bugs may be ironed out of the system. New competitors offering similar products could significantly expand your options.

6. Will you be the first contractor in your market to own this new technology?
Being first isn’t always an advantage. Perhaps your competitors have thought of some very good reasons to steer clear of the new technology for now. Consider contacting early adopters of the technology in other areas to see how it’s worked out for them.

7. Will the new technology work with your existing equipment?
That’s a particularly important consideration for computer-based technology, including smartphones and tablets. If a new piece of equipment means upgrades in other areas, make sure it’s worth it.

8. Who will be responsible for introducing and implementing the new technology?
Identify someone in the company with the time and ability to become a champion of the new technology. 

9. What’s the lifetime cost of ownership? 
Add up purchase price, taxes, any installation costs, employee training, downtime while the new technology is integrated, equipment training, software and hardware updates, vendor support and potential repairs. Then add a contingency for unexpected costs.

If you’ve decided your company absolutely needs to invest in this new technology...

10. Have you looked at leasing the new technology instead of buying it outright? 
While total lifetime leasing costs will be higher than an outright purchase, it may allow the flexibility to back out of an expensive technology that’s become obsolete, isn’t working out or isn’t paying off.

11. Have you looked into government programs that will help you to acquire new technology?
Many federal, state and local programs provide incentives for businesses to invest in new technology. These can include anything from grants and loans to tax incentives, such as accelerated write-offs.

12. Have you let your customers know you’re offering the new technology?
An effective marketing campaign can increase the value of your technology investment.



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