Small Business Challenges
If you are a small business owners you probably have worn many hats through inception to a stable business in your first few years. Unless it’s a venture capitalist funded startup, most businesses have to work the hard way up building their cash reserve and frugally spending on what matters most first. Primarily it means sales and marketing to get their product or service out there and generate enough revenue to start being profitable. Once they are a small established small business with over $5 mil of revenue, you have a small team and you can’t keep up with functional overheads of HR, marketing and IT. When it comes to IT most small businesses have homegrown infrastructure of computers, adhoc networking in the small office and a bunch of cloud subscriptions to manage accounting, email and other services. But now you are seeing telltale signs of inefficiencies, risks and problems:
- PC issues, viruses or breakdowns wasting valuable employee or business time
- Security and compliance of your website, storage and controls of company data
- Backup and recovery mechanism of your critical assets
- Too many cloud subscriptions and tools
- Primarily using Excel to maintain tracking, lists, customers, expenses
- Challenges on marketing your business online
- Getting an edge over competitor with automation, online ordering or app
Some of them sound familiar? For businesses on the lower end of revenue spectrum, it’s still too early to hire a full time IT person to help address issues. So they find solutions by hiring consultants and other companies to address specific IT challenge. It’s tactical, somewhat effective for the problem at hand, but continues to create a baggage of inefficiencies in the long run as a solid strategy for IT is not place. Also most small businesses are thinking IT as a necessary tool, rather than a strategic weapon. A good IT strategy is not about IT Support but how it enables businesses to do generate more leads, run operations better, faster and more efficiently and help you focus on your core competencies.
Elements of a Good IT Strategy:
Align with business goals: Understand what your long term business goals are, what are your revenue projections and what are the key determining factors that help differentiate you from competitors. How will technology help and what efficiencies will you need to bring down your expenses. There in lies the secret sauce of what technology investments to prioritise. For example you are planning on expanding your business with eCommerce. It’s not as simple as finding a web developer, you need to ensure compliance, reliable hosting with expansion capability. Ensuring analytics are set properly for your to make informed decisions on what works, and what can be done better.
Good architecture: Understand your apps and services and determine what is the best solution for your industry and size. For example, you may have enough customers to start using a Customer Relationship Managment (CRM) solution that tracks, records and maintains customer engagement over time. Are you using email newsletters and marketing and is it linked to your website? Do all your solutions talk to each other? Where are you storing files and what are you using for email. Are all these separate systems or can you consolidate your pricing with solutions such as O365 and GSuite?
Solid Infrastructure: Is your IT infrastructure stable and secure? Are you ensuring as you grow in employees you have mechanisms in place to ensure data is backup of critical assets. Your cloud services are using industry best practice for security. Is your customer data secure with you? Losing customer data and specifically personal information can cause heavy liability to businesses.
Business process improvement: The most important juice IT brings to an organisation is competitive advantage (eCommerce, apps, digital marketing) and internal efficiencies (CRM, Databases, logistics and accounting management systems). Most of these services are now available from small cloud subscriptions, to big bundles like SAP and Oracle for enterprises. Finding the right tools is quintessential to organisation success. Applications are just tools, but the right implementation that drives process improvement, brings workflows, automation and fence you from nonsensical labour work helps you focus on things that matter.
If your business is not ready to hire a full time IT Manager or CIO. One of the key things we recommend is hire experienced Chief Information Office (CIO) on casual basis, a service more commonly known as CIO as a Service or Virtual CIO. A CIO that has worked for larger companies has wealth of connections to vendors, process improvement and technology experience. CIO as a service is vendor neutral IT service provider that works for you and lets you make informed decisions on what technology investments are best, writes a detailed IT strategy plan and can help review annually on what it takes to build a solid IT framework for your company. Read more about how a virtual CIO can help small businesses and feel free to book a free consult on our contact page.