Few words in business signal complexity and challenge more than “technology.” This fast- moving discipline changes so frequently and thoroughly that firm leaders may feel they are witnessing a revolution every three to five years.

In the rush to stay ahead of change and find new competitive advantages, firms can risk investing in expensive hardware and software that ultimately does nothing to help the firm. These four simple guidelines can help ensure your technology purchases are genuine innovations for the firm rather than seductive new toys that provide little practical benefit.

  1. The business need should precede acquisition of the tool. Managers and staff should identify and feel the effects of a business need before considering a new piece of hardware or software. Beware any scenario in which you become enamored with a new tool then engage in creative thinking about how to put it to use.
  2. Ensure that the intended users are willing to change their work processes. Innovative tools are of little value if those who should use them resist adopting them due to the initial learning curve and the need to change old work habits.
  3. Design a way to calculate the impact of the new tools. Before making a purchasing decision, establish metrics against which you will measure the effect of the hardware or software. Base the metrics on the goals of the purchase (i.e. the problem you are trying to solve or the process improvement you are trying to make). Remember to include non-measurable benefits too (e.g. improvements in working life quality and morale).
  4. Fail on paper first. Ensure that you not only have a complete, three-year written technology plan, but also that you fully explore contingencies in which the new tools do not work properly. Be creative in anticipating both simple and catastrophic failures. Create any redundancies you need to cover gaps.