Recently a new client who came to me needing website help asked me how I choose the web platforms I use over all of the others out there. She had started down the DIY path herself, making the rounds of many of the popular Do It Yourself platforms, but she was becoming frustrated because she just couldn't figure out how to do what she wanted to do with her website. It was a good question: how do I choose the tools and systems that I support and recommend?
First, I'm all for empowering my clients to manage and update any business solution or system I've helped them put into place to run their business better, including their own website content. However, I'm on the fence about those same business owners choosing their own platform and/or creating their own website or other business system/technology without the help of a certified, knowledgeable technical professional. Yes, you know your business. I like to say that you've probably forgotten more about your business then I will ever learn about it. But I know technology, business systems, and cloud and website technologies platforms. It's what I live and breathe. It's what I do, what Symnoian does.
Put your valuable time into growing, nurturing and promoting your business--connecting with your clients or donors, developing the best product that you can--and not on learning the differences between cloud and on-premise, HTML and PHP, or PowerBI and Tableau. There are just too many factors that need to be considered when you're choosing the best solution for your particular problem, for your particular business, and for your particular place in time on your growth path. But that's a whole different blog that I'll write soon. :-)
So on to what I look for. What makes a solution or platform worthy enough for me to put in my toolbox to help my clients and their businesses?
The first things I look for in any new business system, tool, software package, vendor solution, reporting or website platform is the out-of-the-box capability. What kinds of basic things will it do without the need to customize it? Can I change how it works with configuration settings? Does it let me do some basic customization or tweaking without having to go into the guts of it or write custom code to do the things I need it to? Here, I'm looking for a 70%-75% match between out-of-the-box capability and typical problems that clients will want to solve with that solution or platform.
Secondly, is the product built on industry standard tools, or will I or my client need to learn something proprietary? If it's built on industry standard protocols and tools, more than likely there will be long-term support for it. This is also a good indicator of whether the team that put the solution together has its finger on the pulse of the industry, which again speaks to their potential for sticking around.
After that initial pass-through, I look more closely at how I can meet the rest of the needs that a client might have; this is all about customization and/or extensibility. Again, I'm looking for the implementation and use of industry standard tools and technics to be able to do this within the platform or solution: how deep and rich these capabilities are, and how hard it is to accomplish basic tasks. If I need to learn something proprietary or off the beaten path, or something really basic is hard to do, then I'm not as likely to recommend it or adopt it as something I support.
By Enterprise worthy, I look to see if the service, solution, or platform has the security, redundancy, rigor, and advanced capabilities that a large enterprise or company might need without breaking the budget. Is it just something they hobbled together as an afterthought, or is it baked in from the start and throughout the process? What happens when you need to scale up from 10-15 people to 1,000 or 5,000 people? What are the costs? What does the scaling-out picture look like? Symnoian is about positioning your business for growth. That means systems, processes, and people. So even if you aren't a big company yet, I'm still looking for and recommending systems that will grow with you, something you won't have to replace with another tool in a couple of years when you need something bigger and stronger and more robust to handle those expanded needs.
There are so many services and tools that pop up these days that it can be hard to keep track of them. New ones pop up literally every minute. Some stick around for awhile, some don't have the necessary security or redundancy, and some just don't have the revenue model that make me believe they will be around for a long time. I'm looking for tools for my clients that I think will be around when I (and my clients) need them, that we won't have to migrate from later on when we outgrow them or when clients don't get that next venture capital influx.
Don't get me wrong, I'm always looking for and testing new tools to put in my toolbox to help my clients solve their problems. Unfortunately though, most don't pass these three basic tests. If you're looking to implement a new tool in your own business, make sure to ask these important questions. This will save you a lot of time, effort, and money in the long run. Better yet, consult a professional who can evaluate your particular situation and advise you about which service or product will best serve the needs of your business as it grows.