Is your bright tech idea worth the investment?

When we think innovation, many of us automatically think of tech. And there’s no doubt that it’s driven a lot of cool ideas.

Which is why Eriks and I wanted to chat to today’s guest, Stewart Marshall from SaaS Accelerator.

He’s a commercial software expert, innovator and the bestselling author of “Doing IT for Money”

He’s spent much of his 30 years in IT in the software industry, creating, designing and building rapid development tools.

Creating solutions used by thousands of businesses around the world, including Proctor and Gamble, Kawasaki, Kellogg’s and many leading banks.

You can find out more about what Stewart does at

Website - https://saasaccelerator.com.au/

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/stewart-marshall/

For a quick teaser…check out this video

Listen to the full episode …

[00:00:00] The Point of Technology

Technology at its most fundamental, basic part, is to improve the life of the person using it. That's why we invent these things. So that for me is the basic metric for all success on projects. It’s, did it make the life of the people using the technology better?

This a fundamental tetanus of software and technology as a rule. And I relate this back to the fundamental use of a digging stick by indigenous Australians 50,000 years ago.

A digging stick is a fantastic thing. It can dig things up out of the ground and people get to eat. That's a really good thing. Or you can use it and you can hit the ground with it and nothing happens. So the point of a technology at its most fundamental basic part is to improve the life of the person using it so in itself it is not an end. It is purely an answer to a problem.

[00:08:09] Getting in the Technology Game

And I guess that's what must be daunting to a lot of business people, because they're told you have to use tech tools. It's the currency. It's what our economy runs on, but maybe where do they get started?

So some of it is understanding that we must be in the technology game and we all are, anybody running a business now is in the technology game to some extent. So, um, the, requirement then is to really understand where it is you're going. And once you have that point, then if, technology isn't your subject and for the vast majority of business leaders, it's not, you know, the vast majority of business leaders are market experts they're good at what they do, they’re not technologists.

My recommendation is go and hire somebody, whether it's me or you or whoever it might be. It really doesn't matter, somebody who can help you through this process, because it does require some thought and it does require education and experience.

I often use the building of houses as an analogy for the creation of software. And, uh, I don't know if you ever watch Grand Designs, like how often you see people who will engage with the architect themselves and will do the project management themselves and will spend their time to save themselves money.

And the same analogy kind of pretty much works really, because what you find is people who think, Oh, I'll build an app or I'll have some software created or whatever it might be They think, well, I'm an expert on what I want or what I think I want, therefore I can communicate with this technology business.

Well, it feels like a logical assumption, but the reality is it's one that is born entirely out of ignorance.

[00:18:29] Actively Innovating

If you're running a business that's a million, 2 million, 3 million kind of revenues, or you're a bigger end of small business and heading towards medium size, if you're not actively engaging in implementing innovation, then all you're doing is standing still.

And that's if you're lucky, if you're lucky, you're standing still, the reality is that your competition is trundling past you slowly but surely.

It's what the world was doing five years ago we were, oh, we're not sure about the cloud. You know, there are limitations, there are things we need to concern ourselves with. And that was the case five years ago today, if you're not actively researching how you can make Clouds and Software as a Service (SAS), a fundamental part of your business, then you're going to have trouble.

[00:20:27] Starting Your Tech Journey

really it's, it's just a case of looking, taking a step back, get your face away from the glass as a friend of mine used to say and take a good long look at what's going on. And where are you spending money that you don't want to be spending it? A simple place to start is look at the bums on seats.

Now the first thing you should be looking at is how do I get the best value out of those people? And this is not about how can I fire some people it's not the point. The point is, how do I maximize their efficiency? How do I make them more valuable? And I'll tell you who knows all the answers or who knows all the problems and that's the people you employ. They know all of the issues you've already got. So start by asking them. Ask them. What problems do you have? What makes your life difficult? What makes you slow? What's repetitive. What makes you make mistakes? All of these simple questions that have nothing to do with technology of course, simply about what, what do you do when your day to day?

So I did some work, at the end of the third quarter last year with, um, a business and within, I think, two days I'd found something like a hundred thousand dollars worth of savings, simply because they were doing things with a manual process that $10,000 worth of software would have fixed for them it's not that that is a difficult problem to solve. It's just people who've never looked for it. So they've never found it.

So that really is that, you know, the starting point really for business leaders is that they have just got to listen to the team and engage with them and then build in systems that allow them to have that communication channel and be open to it.

[00:33:22] Artificial Intelligence

I mean, there’s a great phrase that comes out of the software industry, which is this year's AI is next year software. We've understood the algorithm. It's not AI anymore but what seems to be happening is AI is very good at doing the repetitive tasks, but you still need people for the critical problem solving.

The interesting thing about AI of course, is that it requires a massive data set to start with because it's maths and a fundamental, fundamental law of all maths is that it can't be without bias.

When we're talking about AI, the reality is that for the vast majority of business and I mean 90 some odd percent, it's all little to no value whatsoever today beyond things like chat bots, right there simply isn't sufficient data for a business to be able to employ a coherent AI strategy to decide what they're going to do.

It works if we scale it of course that that works well. But, um, I was chatting to somebody a few days ago and they needed a minimum of 10,000 items in a dataset. Now we're talking about 10,000 customer records. That's a lot of customers, right?

So there are a lot of businesses that it will take them 15 years to achieve that sort of level of data. Did you get it by accident because you happen to have been around it for a long time and therefore you've got some, or was it part of a coherent strategy that you started now, planning to be with all of the data that you'll need in 10 years time to be able to make a decision and take the leap forward. Because that's the logical thing.

[00:37:51] Data Collection

Anything, anything you can conceive, anything you can consider. Even the most simple things like gender for example. Uh, if we have a plant database, it may be you know, in random Pty limited that they happen to deal with 80% of their customers are female.

Now, if they don't know that, then their marketing budget is being pointed at, you know, directly at the public with no gender bias. If they do know that then they can halve their marketing budget. Or they can double the effectiveness or however you want to, skew it.

It's that kind of basic idea. What information do you want to record? and it's everything, anything you can conceive.

Technology is about people. How do I use my technology to engage with the people I need to engage with? [00:44:26] Cause the point, the key point really of all of this is that you can't innovate, unless you have some data to understand your market.

[00:45:28] Existing Tools Vs New Technology

If you are in business today and you're not going out of business and you are not tanking or anything terrible, then clearly you have most of the technology you need to do your business and do your job. Otherwise, you wouldn't be in business, right? So hear the stories of companies going out and buying a new ERP, and they spend $10 million on it to replace the existing ERP.

And you look at that and say, well, hang on a minute the existing ERP surely did 90% of the requirement already, otherwise you’d be in disaster land. So what your 20 odd million dollars or whatever you're spending buys you is the 10%, it buys you the new stuff.

So you're only really buying the extras. You're replacing some old stuff with the new stuff, and maybe there's some value in that.

Generally they don't need to go out and buy lots and lots of new tech. What they need to do is to make sure that the people that they've got now know how to use [00:47:00] it, to make sure that they're trained, make sure they have adequately equipped staff.

But to me, innovation is critical and there are so many opportunities for businesses to look at new ways of doing things. And that could be via technology or, you know, not, but making sure you've got help and the right people to take you through the process of technology to me is that's really critical.

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