New and emerging technology might have all the bells and whistles that make your business heart swoon, but how can you know for sure it’s the right fit for your company? Here are 5 steps for evaluating emerging tech.
The scientific method is a versatile process: Elementary school students use it to make paper-mâché volcanoes and potato batteries, and scientists use it to study the ocean floor, COVID-19 vaccinations, and everything in between.
And you should use it too when you consider new technology for your small business.
According to Capterra’s research, only 27% of small business buyers purchase software that meets or exceeds their expectations without compromises. One way you can find new software or technology that will be a great match for your business is by evaluating the tech before investing in it fully. First consider if the technology is brand new to the market or industry, or if it has been around for a while and is just new to your business. Both types of new technology present pros and cons.
|Technology brand new to the market||Technology that has been around for a while but is new to your business|
Innovative technologies present a lot of untapped potential for your business.
They can give your business the chance to pioneer the use of the new tech.
They can give your business a competitive edge.
You might have limited resources when figuring out how to leverage the potential of the tool.
There might be a number of bugs in the technology that have not yet been discovered or worked out.
Your business can adopt the new technology with an understanding of what to expect.
There will likely be a large community of businesses in your industry who have already adopted the tech. Learn from them and take advantage of user reviews.
If it’s been around for a while, it’s likely that most of the bugs have been worked out already.
You might be investing in a technology that is outdated.
You may feel trapped inside how your industry usually uses the technology, making it harder to think outside the box.
Just like your third grade science fair, you’ll need to think critically about the question (or problem) you’re trying to answer with software, your hypothesis, how you plan to find the solution, and what you’ll do with your results—just remember to swap out the potato battery for the business challenge in question.
Use the scientific method to evaluate new software and technology
The scientific method can be broken up into five steps:
After the fifth step, you may want to repeat this process by testing a new hypothesis as you uncover new findings. Also, don’t forget to regularly communicate your findings to your team so everyone stays in the loop.
1. Ask a question
Asking a question may mean that you have to answer many questions to get to the heart of your business needs.
What exactly are you trying to find out? What do you want new technology to accomplish?
To determine your guiding questions, you’ll need to understand your business, the process in question, and have a basic idea of what role the new tech will play in it. You’ll also want to be as specific as possible.
Finding the guiding question
Let’s say you’re thinking of giving your marketing strategy a digital makeover. You already have a solid marketing tech stack that includes customer relationship management software, email marketing software, and social media marketing software, but you want to kick it up a notch.
You’ve heard how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can enhance a customers’ buyer journey and help them to “experience” products or services virtually. In this case, your guiding question might be something such as:
Will giving customers access to more VR and AR experiences drive more sales?
This question is specific. It asks about using VR and AR and states what the purpose of using them would be: more sales and revenue.
2. Do your research
Once you know the question you’re trying to answer, you can use it to guide your background research.
Informing yourself on the new technology from the beginning may help you avoid tough lessons and mistakes later on in the process and can help you form an educated hypothesis (step 3).
What information already exists on the topic of your question? What different resources can you leverage to inform your next steps?
Some different resources that can help with this step include:
Review sites (such as Capterra!)
Industry- or technology-specific blogs
Technology or industry thought leaders
All of these resources would serve a different function in the evaluation process. Some might inform on the basics and trends of the technology, while others, such as reviews, might give you more insight into how other businesses use them for specific tasks or functions.
You know you want to find out if incorporating VR and AR in your marketing strategy will lead to more sales. Before you start your experiment, you’ll need to do some research to find out if you’re on the right track or if you’ll need to tweak your question to make it more realistic.
Some questions you’ll want to answer upfront may include:
- Is it possible to use VR/AR in marketing strategies?
- How have businesses used VR/AR in marketing campaigns? Where did these campaigns exist (e.g., social media, on their website, email)?
- Are there any published success stories? Are there any published success stories specific to my industry/business size?
- How did they measure success?
- What challenges did they face?
- What are some popular platforms? What do users say about them?
In this stage, you’ll want to research software platforms you might want to invest in.
Using third-party platforms, reviews, and vendor websites, you can determine which platforms will meet your needs. For example, if you’re looking for AR software, you might look at a list of software options and a buyers guide for AR software.
3. Write your hypothesis
You’ve thoroughly researched your question and now can make a well-informed hypothesis.
What do you think will happen?
Your hypothesis can follow a formula such as: “If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen.”
You may even find that you might have multiple hypotheses, though it’s generally best to work on one at a time to prevent your team from getting overwhelmed.
From your research, you learned that using VR/AR in marketing can lead to more sales, if it’s implemented correctly. Based on this research, you predict that if you use VR/AR in your next marketing campaign, then customers will buy more of your products or services.
To make it even more specific, you can state the specific software platform you’ll use in the experiment.
For example: “If we use Unity software to create VR/AR marketing experiences, it will drive more sales.”
Your next step is for you and your team to think of the different steps that will need to happen to test this hypothesis and ultimately evaluate the technology.
In this stage, think about what your team must do to achieve desired results. As a team, answer the following questions:
- Have we selected the VR/AR platform we will use? Does it have all the features we expect and will need?
- Do we know how to use it? Have we taken advantage of demos and free trials? Do we need to hire someone with technical expertise to handle the platform?
- How will we divide responsibilities among our team? (For this, consider using a DACI chart to determine drivers, approvers, contributors, and the informed.)
- What’s a realistic timeline for the different pieces?
- Have we done our research on what kind of campaign our audience would favor? What will the campaign consist of?
- What metrics will we track, and how will we know it succeeded or failed?
- If it fails, what will we do? What are potential setbacks or challenges we might face? How can we mitigate potential risks?
Before you test your hypothesis, think through all of the steps it will take to get there, and make sure everyone on the team is informed and knows what their role will be to prevent bottlenecks.
4. Test it
Now it’s time to set your experiment into motion, following the steps you and your team outlined. These steps will act as a map, guiding your team through the experiment to ensure you get the best results and feel confident when evaluating the new technology.
Testing your hypothesis
Your company is testing whether or not using VR/AR in a marketing campaign will drive more sales. Before you test your hypothesis, a lot of preparation needs to be done. You need to select the VR/AR software you’ll use, create the campaign strategy, define the target audience, know what you want VR/AR to do and look like, know how you’ll track success metrics, and create the VR/AR experience.
After you do all of this, you’re ready to test it. If at this stage you’re not ready to invest in a software platform, see if the vendor offers a free version or a free trial of its premium version.
Once all of your prep work is done, you’re ready to roll. Be sure to let your test run long enough to optimize the number of results you collect.
5. Draw a conclusion
Once your test runs for a few weeks or a few months, or however long your campaign is, you’ll want to collect the results, analyze them, and then make a conclusion.
Does the data support your hypothesis? Or does it leave room for questions?
In the process map your team made in step 3, you should have accounted for next steps if your hypothesis proved to be true or false.
Something additional to consider is whether or not using a free or trial version of a platform impacted the results of your test. Did the free version do what you needed it to do? Would the premium or full version of the platform better fit your needs?
Making sense of results
Your test is done, and people are eager to know the results. There are a few scenarios the results might lead to.
Scenario A: The results reveal that the VR/AR did drive more sales; exactly what you predicted would happen.
Scenario B: The results reveal that the VR/AR did not drive more sales, contrary to you what you predicted.
Your next steps for each of these scenarios will look very different.
In scenario A, you and your team take a moment to celebrate the win, and then get to work analyzing the data to find out what led to the success of the experiment. Remember, one success doesn’t necessarily guarantee future success.
A lot of different factors contributed to this win, and it’s important you understand for future experiments. You’ll also decide if you want to keep the software you used or switch to a different one. Regardless, you can use this win to justify future software investments.
In scenario B, you and your team may feel discouraged. Offer words of encouragement and then work together to identify what went wrong. Maybe the issue was the campaign itself or targeting the wrong audience, or perhaps the issue was the software you chose. Analyze the results and pinpoint areas that could be improved or approached differently. After, you may want to run the experiment again, using a different campaign strategy or software.
For either scenario, you’ll want to communicate your results to stakeholders, be transparent, and be open to suggestions.
Know how your business approaches new technology
Not every business approaches new technology the same way: Some might be more cautious and hesitant, while others are less risk averse. Regardless, always thoughtfully evaluate new tech and how it might impact your business processes, employees, and bottom line.
Doing your research on new platforms and taking advantage of free trials will help you increase your chances of getting a great software match without needing to compromise on your needs.