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How to research enterprise tech purchases

Conquering the tech buying landscape can be challenging. Learn how to navigate each stage of the buying cycle, identify business goals and integrate insightful research.

In today's ever-evolving digital landscape, acquiring the right technology is crucial for both individuals and organizations. However, navigating the complex world of tech purchases can be daunting.

The tech buying cycle unfolds in a series of well-defined stages, each playing a critical role. Strategic research should guide every step from recognizing a need and initiating research to implementing the purchase and engaging in ongoing knowledge acquisition.

Research acts as a compass, enabling potential buyers to do the following:

  • Identify relevant solutions to problems by exploring the market landscape, evaluating available technologies and vendors and creating a list of potential options.
  • Compare and analyze by conducting in-depth research on shortlisted technologies, thoroughly comparing features, functionalities and pricing models.
  • Make educated choices by using research findings to reach confident and well-considered purchase decisions.
  • Optimize implementation through continuous learning and exploring the chosen technology to maximize its potential and address post-purchase needs.

Understanding the tech buying cycle

For individuals and organizations, the tech buying cycle acts as a roadmap from identifying a need to acquiring the best technology. Research serves as a critical navigator, informing each step and ultimately leading to a well-considered purchase. Below is a breakdown of the key stages.

1. Recognize the need and initiate research

  • Problem identification. The cycle begins with the recognition of a challenge or opportunity that technology can address. This can include streamlining internal processes or enhancing personal productivity with a new device.
  • Initial research. Broad research starts here. The goal is to understand potential solutions to the problem at hand, including the available technologies and vendors within the relevant market. This initial phase might involve industry reports, technology news articles or attending relevant conferences and webinars.

2. Evaluate options through targeted research

  • In-depth research. With the shortlisted potential technologies identified, detailed research begins. This stage involves a deep dive into each candidate, meticulously comparing features, functionalities and pricing models. Resources such as expert reviews, user forums, vendor white papers and consultations with technical specialists become invaluable.
  • Comparative analysis. Equipped with research insights, the shortlisted options are analyzed against specific requirements, budget and technical capabilities. Key factors to consider include performance benchmarks, compatibility with existing infrastructure, ease of use and the quality of customer support offered by each vendor.

3. Make an informed choice

  • Focused research. Any remaining uncertainties or questions are addressed through targeted research. This might involve requesting product demos, using trial versions or engaging directly with vendors for clarifications.
  • Final selection. Ideally, the comprehensive research conducted throughout the cycle is acted on and a well-informed purchase decision is reached.

4. Implement and do post-purchase research

  • Continuous research. Research doesn't cease after the purchase. As the technology is implemented and used, ongoing research might be necessary to optimize its use. This could involve exploring specific features, troubleshooting challenges or staying updated on new functionalities through vendor resources and industry publications.

The tech buying cycle is not a rigid structure. Earlier stages may be revisited based on new information or evolving needs. Each stage's complexity and duration depend on the technology's sophistication and an organization's decision-making style. Strategic integration of research at every stage helps to make informed choices, decrease risk and maximize the value of a technology investment.

Who is on the buying team?

In the world of enterprise technology buying, a diverse team comes together to make informed decisions. Each member plays a crucial role, and research permeates every stage. Key players include:

  • Chief information officer. Leading the charge, the CIO sets the technology vision and oversees the buying process. They engage in high-level research to understand industry trends, market leaders and budget allocations.
  • Line-of-business (LOB) leaders. Representing specific departments such as marketing, finance or research and development, LOB leaders identify challenges and support technologies that improve their teams' efficiency and effectiveness. They conduct focused research specific to their needs, seeking solutions aligned with departmental goals.
  • IT professionals. This broad group includes architects, engineers, analysts and administrators. They delve into the technical aspects of potential purchases, evaluating features, compatibility and security through in-depth research.
  • Procurement team. Responsible for negotiating contracts and ensuring compliance, procurement specialists research vendor reputation, pricing models and licensing terms.

The composition of the buying team can vary depending on the size and structure of the organization. While individuals conduct specialized research, collaboration is key to ensure a comprehensive understanding and shared vision. The research process is iterative, adapting to new information and evolving needs throughout the buying cycle. Consultants, industry analysts and independent research firms can be brought in to provide objective assessments and market insights.

Different research activities can include the following:

  • Individual initiatives. Team members conduct independent research through online resources, vendor white papers, user reviews and industry publications.
  • Collective efforts. Workshops, brainstorming sessions and knowledge-sharing meetings encourage collaborative research and informed decision-making.
  • Vendor interactions. Demos, proof-of-concept engagements and direct communication with vendors provide valuable insights into specific technologies.

How to identify business goals

Clearly defined business goals serve as the bedrock for informed decision-making and guide a company's research journey. Below are ways to effectively identify an organization's goals and use them to drive effective research.

Internal exploration

Start by revisiting the company's vision and mission statements. These foundational documents encapsulate core aspirations and provide a guide for goal setting.

Engage with key stakeholders from various departments, such as marketing, finance and operations, to understand their priorities and challenges. This collaborative approach ensures goals align with diverse perspectives and drive collective growth.

Conduct a SWOT analysis to assess an organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This strategic evaluation unveils areas for improvement and potential growth avenues, informing goal formulation.

External benchmarking

Research and analyze industry trends to identify emerging challenges and opportunities within the market. Understanding the competitive landscape informs goal setting and research direction.

Study direct and indirect competitors to understand their successes, strategies and market gaps. This external perspective helps set ambitious yet achievable goals and tailor research accordingly.

Gather feedback from customers through surveys, interviews and social media analysis. Identifying their needs, preferences and pain points leads to goals that enhance customer satisfaction and drive loyalty.

Goal formulation

Once a company comprehensively understands internal and external factors, formulate goals using the SMART framework. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. This ensures clarity and focus and facilitates effective research.

Establish a balanced mix of short-term (tactical) and long-term (strategic) goals. This guarantees responsiveness to immediate needs while maintaining a focus on long-term vision.

Break down high-level goals into smaller, department-specific goals. This clarifies and aligns individual team objectives with the overall strategy, allowing for targeted research efforts.

Guiding research

Plan research questions that directly address established goals. Asking the right questions ensures research efforts gather relevant data and insights to inform decision-making.

Identify the most appropriate sources for research based on established goals. For example, industry reports might be valuable for market analysis, while customer surveys provide insights into user behavior.

Continuously evaluate and analyze research findings, ensuring they directly contribute to achieving established goals. This ensures that research efforts translate into actionable insights and drive business success.

How to research tech purchases

The tech landscape is packed with information, but knowing where to find the right type of content for research needs is crucial. Sixty-eight percent of buyers conduct research to support a technology purchase mostly or completely independent of a sales representative, according to a recent TechTarget survey. This means buyers are using a variety of content to inform their purchase decisions. According to the same survey, early-stage content types used in buyer research include independent tech advice, product spec sheets, white papers and webinars.

However, there are many content types that can be used effectively, including the following:

  • News. Potential buyers can stay up to date on industry trends, new product announcements and emerging technologies. Research can include scanning headlines, reading summaries and delving deeper into articles relevant to specific needs. Use news to understand the broader context and identify potential purchases.
  • Podcasts and videos. This type of content can help gain insights from interviews with industry experts, product demonstrations and in-depth discussions. Research by listening to podcast episodes relevant to a chosen technology or vendor and watch product demos to understand features and functionalities. Use both to gather perspectives and visualize potential solutions to business problems.
  • Product reviews. Product reviews can help give unbiased user experiences and opinions on specific products. Research can be conducted by reading reviews from various sources to identify common strengths and weaknesses, focusing on reviews addressing features important to business needs. Use product reviews to assess user satisfaction and potential pain points.
  • Case studies. This content type can help potential buyers understand how similar organizations have implemented and used specific technologies. Research by looking for case studies relevant to the industry or business challenges. Analyze the benefits achieved and use those insights to gauge potential impact and feasibility.
  • White papers. A popular research method, white papers can provide in-depth technical information, vendor perspectives and solution-specific details. Research can be conducted by downloading white papers from shortlisted vendors on relevant technologies and focusing on sections that address specific needs and technical considerations. Potential buyers can use white papers to gain detailed product knowledge and compare vendor offerings.
  • Tutorials and how-to guides. Tutorials and how-to guides help buyers learn how to use and troubleshoot specific technologies or features. Use guides for technologies on a shortlist. Focus research on learning core functionalities and addressing potential concerns. Potential buyers can also use tutorials and guides to assess ease of use and training requirements.
  • Analyst insights and market research. These content types help potential buyers review expert opinions, market trends and data-driven insights. Research by reading analyst reports on shortlisted technologies or vendors and pay attention to comparative analysis and identified strengths and weaknesses. Use analyst insights and market research to make informed decisions based on market trends and expert analyses.

When researching tech purchases, it's important to remember to diversify sources to gain a comprehensive perspective and not rely solely on one type of content. Potential buyers should always critically evaluate the information they find, as well as consider the source's credibility, potential bias and alignment with specific needs. Finally, buyers should synthesize research findings from different sources to form a holistic understanding of the technology landscape to help make informed purchase decisions.

Kaitlin Herbert is a content writer and former managing editor for the Learning Content team. She writes definitions and features.

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