So you\u2019ve made a decision to implement some new technology that will help your business. You\u2019ve realized that you can no longer continue with the same old way of doing things; it\u2019s time to move to the next level. Great! What\u2019s next?\nSMEs often don\u2019t know what they don\u2019t know when it comes to IT. In most cases, they are great at their core business and are usually successful in delivering superior products and services to their customers. But when it comes to making technology choices, anxiety and frustration arise. I have heard similar frustration and questions in conversations many times: \u2018How do I decide the best path forward?\u2019 or \u2018How do I know the best solution for my business?\u2019\nTo make effective technology decisions requires a shift in perspective. Rather than seeing technology as a necessity, start looking at it as an investment with intended benefits. Understand the pros and cons of the IT investment decision and start with the end in mind. You wouldn\u2019t make an investment in new capital assets for your manufacturing or logistics business without building a business case. \u00a0So, \u00a0follow the same method for your IT investment decisions.\nHere are four steps any SME can use to make effective technology investment decisions:\n1. Identify your objectives\nIdentifying and documenting your objectives ensures\u00a0you actually achieve\u00a0the intended benefits of your decision. This process helps to develop an understanding of how your technology choices align with your business objectives and should be a fundamental part of any project, running from the beginning to the end, and beyond.\nThrough an initial focus on outcome planning, you can determine that your intended benefits have been realized and sustained after the end of the project. Furthermore, it helps to ensure a clear understanding of who is responsible for the delivery of those outcomes.\n2. Document the requirements\nA requirement defines, in its simplest terms, something that the system should be able to do. The key to documenting the requirements is ensuring that each aligns to some degree with at least one of the business objectives.\nAt the early stage, requirements should include the overall functionality: what is the system supposed to accomplish. The requirements are normally gathered through discussion with key staff who will be impacted by the technology decision. Keep in mind that while the requirements will continue throughout the life of the project, the level of detail will evolve from general to more specific as the project progresses.\nThere are a number of helpful resources for gathering requirements. \u00a0Here are a few options:\n\nRequirements Gathering Blunders and Best Practices (4pm.com)\nBusiness Requirements Analysis: Clearly Agreeing What You're Going to Deliver (MindTools)\nWhat The Heck Are We Building? 10 Steps to Successful Requirements Gathering (Phase 2 Technology)\n\n3. Narrow the options\nRecent growth in the number of options available provides SMEs with both opportunities and challenges in finding the right solution for their technology needs. The objective here is to develop a comprehensive list of possible options that address the requirements documented in the previous step.\nAt first the number of options may appear daunting. Remember, this is why you created a list of requirements aligned with business objectives. Follow these steps to narrow down your list to a manageable number:\n\nCreate a workbook listing the potential solutions across the columns.\nList your requirements, one requirement in each row of the workbook.\nDo some research on each option and determine whether it addresses each requirement.\nAnalyze the list to determine which options address the most requirements.\nPrioritize the options based on your objectives and requirements.\n\nThe list you\u2019ve built provides you the basis for the best possible solutions.\n4. Use free expertise\nAt this point, you may be asking yourself, \u2018What am I supposed to do with all this information?\u2019 You\u2019ve done your initial research, eliminated a number of options and are still no closer to making a decision. But wait\u2026\nNow the (free) fun begins!\nThis is the opportunity to have the vendors explain how their solution addresses your particular objectives and requirements. Prepare a simple Request for Information (RFI) and send it to the top solution providers in your requirements workbook. It\u2019s basically free consulting for your business!\nThe most important aspect of the RFI process is to be clear in your business objectives and requirements when you prepare the request. The responses you receive will make it clear which vendors are serious about helping you find the best answer.\nFollowing a structured approach and keeping your objectives in mind will help SMEs minimize the risk of technology investment decisions and find the right solution for their business needs.