In these digitally-centric yet tough economic times, there is a tendency by purchasing managers, to focus on price and budget as the main criteria, above all else when purchasing the tech products that have become essential to doing business, writes Liezl Beneke, branch manager at Rectron.
However, to ensure that the products you buy actually help your business grow now and in the future, you need to make purchasing decisions that give you more bang for your buck as well as a long term of usage.
Before buying tech products for your business, you need to ask yourself why you want to make the purchase?; what do you want to use the products for?; and what value do you hope they will add to your business? It is not just about finding the products that meet your immediate needs, but rather those that will address your future requirements.

Finding the right technology for your business
The first thing to do when considering your technology needs, is to get a thorough understanding of what you want to achieve and to establish a business case for your decision.  It is important to understand that this investment needs to work for you and not the other way around.
You need to consider the technologies that are available as well as the longevity of the technologies that you choose.  It is also important to choose the right technology partners that have a proven track record as well as the necessary experience, to support and maintain your business case.  Remember that technology is a tool to help you to do things, better, faster and more efficiently.
The second thing to consider is whether your business should be using PCs or operating as a mobile workforce. For institutions like call centres, where users mostly sit at their desks to work, PCs are a perfectly acceptable option. In this case you have a choice of desktop PC’s or thin client (virtualised platforms).  Depending on the size of your organisation, the costs may be substantially better to go with a volume licensing option which allows you to license devices and PC’s on an ad-hoc basis.
However, if your business is not office-bound, and for example has a sales team on the road, notebooks, tablets and other mobile devices will be the best choice. The second point should also take into consideration the type of software that you use to conduct your business, be it point of sale or environment resource planning software. The partner that you choose here, will be important to the long term prospects of your company.
Thirdly, for these types of businesses and other small businesses that employ the bring your own device (BYOD) strategy, it’s also essential to ensure you have the right software in place – such as Office 365, or any cloud based platform, which can be  accessed from any authorised device, from anywhere in the world.
Speaking of working remotely, choosing the right technology for your business also means ensuring you have the right infrastructure in place. Servers can be useful for some businesses, while the cloud can often be a cost-effective solution when it comes to document storage and creating that mobile workforce but also focussing on the right connectivity and security platform (to protect your network from hackers) is equally as important.
Lastly, decide whether you want to rent or own your IT.  It is important to decide on this aspect due to the fact that technology is changing at such a rampant pace, that in 2 years, your technology becomes redundant.  There are options that can be available that allows you to rather rent IT products (PC’s, notebooks, servers, networking, etc.) which can become an operational expense as opposed to a capital one.
If your company is going to grow then renting could pose as a viable option.  Anything from hardware to software can be put onto a rental agreement.  Microsoft volume licensing for operating systems and office products are available in this form.

Thinking in the long-term leads to greater cost-effectiveness
However, while cost-effectiveness is always an important consideration, don’t confuse that with buying cheaper products that won’t offer you the longevity your business needs. You need to make sure that these are products that will still be relevant in the future, as your business evolves.
It also doesn’t make sense to buy an older model of notebook to save some money, only to have it stop working and then find out you can no longer get hold of the components needed to fix it. In the same vein, buying a product with a one-year warranty might seem like the most cost-effective option at the time, but investing in an extended warranty is valuable in helping to make your product last allowing you to sweat the value of your asset.
This can all seem like quite a daunting prospect, especially if you are a business owner whose expertise lies in areas other than IT. It’s for this reason that it’s important to find the right partner, in the form of a supplier, to consult with.

Developing a relationship with a trusted supplier
Your supplier should be someone you can trust, who supports you and who has the relevant product knowledge to guide you to make the best decisions for your business needs. They should also be someone with whom you can develop a relationship, from the early days of choosing a technology platform, educating you about your options and assisting with finance requirements, through to efficient after sales service, so that you can be assured of getting the support and solutions you need to help you grow your business.
So, before rushing out to buy the technology you think your business needs, take the time to consult your supplier and do the required research on what is available and how you can benefit from it. While price will always be an important part of the equation, rather base your decision on longevity, quality, support and then price. It might be a lengthier process and bigger outlay now, but it will be the most financially-savvy decision in the long-term, and one that will help take your business from strength to strength.