Certain things in life are absolutes. You can’t be sort of pregnant, for example.
But Information Technology is not one of those absolutes. You can have a little or a lot. You can use it for all it’s worth, or you can just use the basics. You can have everything optimized to your specific circumstances, or you can make do with things as they come out of the box. You can buy the products that best meet your needs, or you can decide not to buy them and just use the next best thing.
Helping small businesses navigate these types of issues is what channel partners are all about. So even though one might be sitting across your desk hoping to sell you something, the net result may profoundly impact your bottom line in very positive ways. The hard part is that you may or may not fully understand the technologies that are supposed to be leveraged to your advantage.
It’s obvious that you want to be working with channel partners whom you trust. That’s kind of a no-brainer, but aside from that, there are other things you can do, too. Perhaps the best piece of advice basically boils down to doing your homework. Think about the types of applications your company uses and do some web searches on other options. You won’t want to make any changes unless there are clear-cut advantages, because migrations always include a certain amount of growing pains.
In addition, do some networking among other people in your field. Find out what they use. Visit booths at trade shows and talk to people. Pay particularly close attention to the user interfaces on any of the applications you might consider. Do they make sense? Are the intuitive? How do those applications affect the bottom line?
Come up with some ideas and then run them past your channel partners, who, undoubtedly will have a few ideas of their own. It also makes sense to have this discussion with some new channel partners, as well. Many of the technology vendors have partner locators on their web sites. These can be very helpful in helping you to identify skilled channel partners who are both nearby, and have experience in your industry. These individuals might have some creative ideas, too.
While you’re going through all this, it’s also a good idea to do an audit of how your current applications are being used. Are there features that could make everybody’s lives easier if your company took the time to learn and integrate them?
Think in terms of efficiency. Ask about time-to-payback; the break-even point on the investment. Consider the “softer”, lesser measurable effects such as incremental workload reductions for your team. Try to think outside the box. While IT is essentially a scientific function, it has always advanced and been best utilized by people who see the potential, as well as the operational side of it.