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Digital Transformation | 10 MIN READ

How to Conquer Your Fear of Adopting New Business Technology

Adopting new technology is about more than keeping up with business trends. Being afraid to embrace modern IT tools actually does far more damage than most entrepreneurs or executives may realize.

Jump to the main takeaways:

 Step 1: Understand Why You Fear Technology
 Step 2: Judge Technology Based on Benefits, Not Just Price
 Step 3: Do Your Homework (Yes, There Will Be a Test)
 Step 4: Take Advantage of Your Free Trials and Live Demos
 Step 5: Make Technology Decisions Based on Data, Not Emotion

According to a 2018 study by Champman University, Americans fear complex technology more than needles, germs, flying, or an unfaithful partner. Another 2019 study revealed that a whopping 70% of Europeans believe new technology does more harm than good.

And yet, despite those objections, AI spending is expected to top $49 billion in 2020, a 31% increase from 2019. Clearly, the obsession with new business tech isn’t going away any time soon–so how does your organization avoid being held back by a fear of technology?

This blog post will provide you with a step-by-step outline of how you can kick this harmful mindset and, through smart technology adoption, use your IT assets to grow your business.

Let’s get started!

 

Step 1: Understand Why You Fear Technology

To paraphrase a popular saying, the first step in solving any problem is understanding the root cause(s) of the issue. In order to conquer a fear of new technology, you need to pinpoint what makes you feel this way.

Let’s start at perhaps the most irrational source: pop culture. Whether it’s HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” or Skynet from the “Terminator” film franchise, fictionalized versions of the future have given smart technology a bad name.

Forbes’ Ron Schmelzer explains how these imagined technological advances feed into primal human apprehensions:

“One of the most widespread fears of AI is just general anxiety about it and what it’s potentially capable of. A recurring theme in movies and science fiction is AI systems that go rogue [...] People don’t like machines that get too smart, because we fear we can’t control it. This popular representation of AI gone bad is causing a general wariness in the public surrounding the development of intelligent systems technologies.”

Besides this kind of blind mistrust, other factors that can fuel one’s fear of technology are:

  • Commitment issues. Also known as the paradox of choice, an oversaturated menu of software solutions can lead to feeling helpless, powerless, and, ultimately, afraid of committing to one technology option over another.
  • Complacency. In other words, getting too comfortable with “the way it’s always been done.” And there are plenty of businesses that are guilty of this–in fact, nearly half of all U.S. small businesses still don’t have a website. In 2020. Seriously.
  • Inexperience. If someone has never used (or even heard of) cloud infrastructure or software, that knowledge gap can be intimidating enough to avoid investing or adopting much-needed solutions altogether.
  • Training concerns. Beyond the act of investing in new business technology, the willingness to follow that up with thorough integration and training also scares many businesses away.
  • Self-preservation. Occasionally, a fear of technology is really rooted in the fear that once implemented, any new IT assets will render one or several people’s jobs obsolete.

There are so many factors that can plant the seed for and, over time, intensify the fear of new technology. By understanding what your anxieties are rooted in, you’ll be better equipped to permanently excise those biases.

In general, though, those aforementioned factors all pale in comparison to one looming variable: the almighty dollar.

 

Step 2: Judge Technology Based on Benefits, Not Just Price

The biggest reason (and sometimes, the biggest excuse) businesses have for an unwillingness to invest in new technology is the costs.

Especially for small-to-medium business (SMB) owners, investing in or implementing technology that’s perceived as complex can be intimidating. Unfortunately, this reluctance prevents a lot of organizations back from realizing their full potential.

As per recent Salesforce data, 68% of small business owners cited budget constraints as a major challenge in technology adoption. This builds on a previous study that stated 53% of small business owners end up bailing on plans to invest in IT because of the costs involved.

This needs to change.

An easy way to flip this script is to judge a technology based on the benefits it brings to the table, not just the price you pay for it as an asset. Just like renting office space and paying employee salary, you have to weigh the pros and cons of all your business expenses.

One of the biggest benefits of adopting the latest business technology is how easy it can make organizing and managing your data. Even small businesses have tons of user data at their fingertips and relying on older tech to do the job puts you at a huge disadvantage.

This Phocas Software blog post goes into more detail, using spreadsheets as an example:

“Because entering and manipulating data in Excel is a manual process, spreadsheets are extremely susceptible to human error. A broken calculation in a single cell will cascade throughout your data. Compromised data integrity can lead to considerable lost opportunities which may damage your business. No company can afford to rely on an outdated tool that is potentially rife with errors.”

The upside of new technology adoption is well-documented too. 85% of SMBs report that technology use aids in success, while mobile tech has been proven to increase employee productivity across the board.

Think of it this way: How much do you stand to gain in potential productivity optimization and revenue increases? Oftentimes, the business benefits of investing in and adopting IT tools go far beyond the expense you incur to acquire them.

Why fear business growth?

 

Step 3: Do Your Homework (Yes, There Will Be a Test)

Let’s run it back to the idea of a knowledge gap influencing the fear of technology.

You may not know everything there is to know about cloud computing and AI, or what SaaS or IaaS tools you need to effectively manage your business. Luckily, there are so many resources out there that can help you get up to speed. Most of them are free to access too.

The catch? You must commit to doing the homework.

Researching business technology topics from properly-vetted publications–some of our favorites include CIO, Diginomica, Gartner’s blog, Entrepreneur, and the MIT Technology Review–can help bust baseless myths that may steer you in the wrong direction.

Consider these examples:

  • Worried about AI taking away people’s jobs? Then this Quartz deep-dive into the positive impacts automation, including how it creates more new jobs than it eliminates, is worth a read.
  • Think hanging on to outdated software is okay? This CIO piece about the cost of unused software is liable to change some minds.
  • Feel like only rich, powerful companies can benefit from AI? This Entrepreneur blog post highlights how AI is not only affordable for small businesses but also revolutionizing how they operate.

While information overload may make the research process more difficult, it doesn’t take away from the importance of staying informed. This is especially true of product reviews, for which sites like Capterra and G2 Crowd are extremely valuable.

Talking to other business owners, friends, or internet users about their experiences certain technology is also a terrific learning tool. Take time to understand the pros, cons, and other details that could affect your business as a whole.

How does doing all this homework pay off? When your knowledge of current business technology benchmarks, trends, and projections is tested during the decision-making process.

Granted, not every choice will be the right one. But uninformed ones are always inefficient shots in the dark.

 

Step 4: Take Advantage of Your Free Trials and Live Demos

At a certain point, online research and discussions with like-minded professionals can’t replace the value of hands-on experience with new technology. For most current software solutions, this happens via free trials or live demos.

Free trials or, in some cases, “freemium” versions of software are the best ways to inform yourself and other stakeholders on all your options. You can get a more in-depth look at the user experience and determine which solution is the right one for your business.

As this Intercom piece explains, the real value of a free trial resides in its ability to present a software’s out-of-the-box value to its potential users. While any version with “free” in the title won’t come with a full suite of functionality, it’s usually enough to get a pragmatic idea of its capabilities.

Some other benefits of signing up for free trial before you buy include:

  • Minimal risk for the user. While there’s definitely a time commitment attached to clicking through trial versions of software, it won’t cost you anything but that. If the product’s not for you, you’re not on the hook financially.
  • Less aggressive sales pitches. The best free trials out there replace invasive, aggressive salesmanship instead of being a precursor to it. If a sales rep continuously hounds you after going through a free trial, it’s not a good sign.
  • Free trials benefit all parties. They’re great for consumers but they work wonders for companies who use them too. They boost customer retention and engagement and, in general, are tremendous tools for both sides of the sales equation.

The same pros apply to live demos. Instead of walking through a product on your own, you’ll have the added advantage of a product expert teaching you about features and how they can help your achieve its specific short and long-term goals.

There are also potential downsides to be aware of. Short time periods, ranging from seven to 30 days, restrict how long you have to take advantage of them. Free trial users must also be wary of fraudulent credit card charges that have become more common.

All that said, if you’re looking to get a distinct, in-depth impression on what new technology options can do for your organization, you can do a lot worse than a free trial or live demo.

 

Step 5: Make Technology Decisions Based on Data, Not Emotion

Every tip in this blog post points towards arguably the most important step in conquering a fear of technology: making logical, data-based decisions instead of emotional ones.

Now, this can be easier said than done. Even the best business managers and entrepreneurial minds can be illogically swayed by previous bad experiences, even if they did their due diligence through research, free trials, or live demos.

Decisions about what, why, and how to invest in new technology must be made using data-driven insights and/or best practices instead of hunches or gut instincts alone.

Consider this Harvard Business Review report, which states that only 2% of managers (!) regularly apply best practice data in decision-making moments. This means that nearly all important business choices are plagued by an informational gap. How can this be?

HBR author Erik Larson suggests that history has influenced decision-making patterns:

“Decision making in business has long been more art than science. In part, that is because most managers had relatively little access to accurate information until recently. Few decision tools are widely used; the pros-and-cons list, popularized by Benjamin Franklin, is probably the most common — and it’s nearly 250 years old.”

Larson also highlights the psychological barriers to making good business decisions:

“The reality is that we [humans] are predictably irrational. Behavioral economists have uncovered a range of mental shortcuts and cognitive biases that distort our perceptions and hide better choices from us. Most business decisions are collaborative, which means groupthink and consensus work to compound our individual biases. Further, most business decisions are made under the stress of high uncertainty, so we often rely on gut feelings and intuition to reduce our mental discomfort.”

The truth is that making sound decisions about investing in business technology is difficult. However, clear, actionable data–whether it’s through external sources or internal reporting–is a crucial part of the equation.

Without it, choosing the right technology in business is more like a blind taste test than a sensorily satisfying meal.

 

Recap

Giving in to a fear of new business technology, while not a rare problem, is one that can be easily overcome.

Whatever the root cause of this apprehension, doing your research, taking advantage of free trials and live demos, and, above all else, using data to form clear-eyed opinions before making a decision are antidotes to even the biggest tech-related business anxieties.

The rate at which new technology hits both the B2B and B2C markets will only increase over time. This means your organization, whether it wants to or not, must be prepared to upgrade more often and, in so doing, face any fear of technology head-on.

Otherwise, the possibilities of growing your revenue or scaling your operations will be severely limited.


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Originally published Feb 18, 2020 3:00:00 AM