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Deciding which technology to invest in can be a challenging guessing game for any small business owner. No matter what industry you’re in, there are hundreds of solutions available and there seems to be a new gadget or service that comes out everyday — offering to make your work easier in some way.

Being a good judge of new products — and being able to separate the facts from the hype — is important. But the most valuable gauge is how each technology is able to deliver a Return On Investment (ROI), while addressing your business goals. This is true even when looking at time tracking software.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you ponder your next small business tech purchase.

1. How will this make your business more profitable?

It seems like an obvious question that every business owner would ask before making a big decision, but it’s not hard to find companies (including very successful ones) that regularly skip this crucial step. This is particularly true at larger firms where money isn’t tight and executives have more freedom with decision-making to forge ahead with the latest systems in an effort to stay up to date.

Generally, there are three key ways a new technology should improve your business:

  • By saving you time
  • By saving you money
  • By improving productivity

If you can’t identify how the new product will support all three factors in your business, it’s worth rethinking the investment.

Let’s look at Time by Wagepoint (formerly Timesheet Mobile), for example. The features built into this cloud-based time tracking software are designed for ease of use. This means you can navigate the program to create schedules, projects and more while improving overall productivity because everyone knows where they need to be when and can clock in and out super simply. As for saving you money, Time by Wagepoint’s variety of features takes away the need for multiple systems.

There are other potential “qualitative” justifications that aren’t as easy to calculate — such as improving employee morale or improving reputation or image — but you should have some very strong evidence (i.e. feedback from employees or customers) if you choose to rely on them.

2. The cost of training.

When a technology company quotes you on the cost of an application, it’s also critical to factor in the time that goes into putting the new system in place, as well as the time to train everyone to effectively use it. New software, for instance, will mean taking a fair amount of time to get everyone to a stage where they are comfortable adopting it.

Training and onboarding staff can be a hidden cost, since it takes time away from employees performing their normal job functions, but also an investment. When evaluating tech vendors, ask them about what documents and procedures they have to help you roll out the solution — and if they deliver ongoing service as you get up to speed.

At Time by Wagepoint, we pride ourselves on how easy our employee tracking solution is to use. We offer language selection for the interface, desktop and smartphone app options, as well as integration with bookkeeping and payroll software. By providing user guides, training videos, a free online demo, chat and phone support ensures a smooth transition.

For any implementation, always consider whether the eventual improvement will make up for the productivity lost during the training phase for you and your team.

A Help button is built into Time by Wagepoint’s admin panel for quick access to Time by Wagepoint’s User Guides and friendly Onboarding team

3. Do your research.

If you’re making a substantial investment, be sure to conduct considerable research first, especially if the type of technology you’re looking to invest in is outside of your area of expertise. There are plenty of great online resources that you can consult to get a sense of whether the product you’re considering is right for your business.

Mainstream and niche tech publications, such as ZDNet, SC Magazine (for security products) and Engadget (for gadgets, consumer electronics) are great sources for expert insight on the latest product releases. For opinions from those who’ve used the tech you’re interested in, there’s a thriving ecosystem of business software reviews online, with sites such as Software Advice , G2Crowd and Capterra.

Additionally, you can gain some valuable insight by asking your peers about what products they’re using and the pros and cons from their experience. Free trials are another way you can do your research and see if the tech is the right fit for you. Many small business tools — including Time by Wagepoint — will give you a free trial for a period of time before you opt to buy.

4. Is there existing data?

Every new product promises major changes, but only some can prove it to you through data. While some changes to your business will be non-physical things you can’t quantify through objective metrics (AKA how you’d traditionally gauge performance), you should seek that type of analysis whenever it is available.

Case studies are a fantastic way to get a sense of the data and see how others in your industry are using the tool and the benefits they’re seeing from it. In Time by Wagepoint‘s case, measurable ROIs include reducing time to process payroll and preventing timesheet errors, and one customer shared how it’s even helping her three businesses save hundreds per day.

5. Factor in employee opinion.

Anytime you make a big change, you should be sensitive as to how your workers will receive it. Whenever possible, ask for their opinions on what technological changes, if any, will help them improve job performance. Your employees will appreciate the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the matter and provide their two cents on what big changes might be coming.

The buck stops with you, and sometimes you’re going to have to make changes that some of your workers won’t like, but they’ll feel better about them if they’re at least given the chance to share their concerns and see that you have taken them into account. It’ll be critical to communicate with them throughout the process and make sure that the tech lives up to its promise to improve efficiency.

For busy small business owners, the thought of the time and cost of implementing new technology can seem daunting. However, the investment in the right tech will pay for itself many times over each year in cost savings and productivity improvements.