1. Audit your existing software.
Software with all the bells and whistles is endlessly attractive, but if you’re only going to use one feature, it’s often not worth it. Worst of all, when I go through companies’s existing packages, it usually turns out another one already contained the lone useful feature. At that rate, you’re literally paying for marketing. Do an extensive dig through your list, and compare features and tools to eliminate overlap or useless purchases.
2. Calculate your actual usage.
Data is the best determinant of how you should spend your money. Use time-tracking software for three months to see how your team spends its time. You may see that a manual process takes three hours but only occurs once a quarter. Weigh the cost of your team members’ 12 hours each year against the cost of software to automate the process. Conversely, if you’re looking to automate a daily process, determine how much employee time you’d gain back and what you could do — and earn — with it.
3. Adopt a “sharing is caring” attitude.
If you’ve determined that you’ll only use an expensive software package twice a year, look at alternatives. Freemium options are one; group accounts are another. While some subscription-based software can’t be shared, some can. One business I worked with installed graphic design software on a computer it shared with a building neighbour. Neither used the software enough to double-book the computer or justify its expense alone.
4. Ask for personal reviews.
Read reviews online to pinpoint the best tech for each area you’re examining, but go one step further and talk to business owners with companies similar to yours in terms of size, revenue or market. Which options have they tried? Which were worthwhile? What do they wish they’d never done? Unless they’re getting paid to shill for a company, they’re likely to give you their honest opinions.
5. Talk yourself off the “status” ledge.
Let’s be honest: A lot of executives buy shiny new tech because it makes others envious. Sending your salespeople to conferences with Apple gear makes you feel like you’re putting the best face forward for your company. But throwing money behind expensive tech when mid-level versions will do requires some soul-searching if you’re serious about saving money over the long haul.
6. Try a rent-to-own option.
I don’t mean this literally, although rent-to-own options do exist. If you’re looking at buying tactile technology that you’re not convinced will be used, borrow from someone for a week or so. If you currently use a regular whiteboard but are considering a digital version, leave both in the rooms people use for meetings and brainstorms. Tracking the use — and ease of use — of each option will help you make your decision.
7. Look for struggling companies.
This may sound similar to buying unproven tech, but it’s not. If a company (with strong tech) that previously enjoyed first-mover advantage in a space is rapidly losing ground to competitors, that’s an opening. When talking to salespeople, ask about discounts for long-term contracts or marketing help, like case studies or testimonials. Many businesses are happy to exchange a discount for a more committed partnership.
Tech is designed to be alluring, and it is. But entrepreneurs can’t afford to chase every shiny new piece of tech if they want to grow their businesses. By adopting tech glut-fighting practices, they can ensure they have the technology — and the cash — to reach their ultimate goals.