IT used to be a luxury available only to the biggest organisations. Although, times have changed small and medium businesses (SMBs) can be slow to catch up. Technology is moving fast, and even the smallest businesses should be taking advantage of cutting edge technology so here are 7 things they can learn from corporate IT departments.
1. Think Big
Big companies think big. They look at the big picture and plan their resources to support current needs and design solutions that will provide a platform for future growth. Thinking too small at the outset often makes future expansion difficult and costly. Placing any stumbling blocks in the path of growth can damage the future profitability of any business, regardless of size.
2. Outsource Responsibility
Big business always tries to outsource responsibility, making IT “someone else’s problem”. This approach allows them to focus on their core business, selling products and services. Most businesses want computer systems to “just work”. The best way to achieve this is to pass responsibility to experts. The cheapest way to achieve this is to use a third party, costing far less than employing suitably qualified in-house staff.
3. Don’t Settle
Just because your organisation is small doesn’t mean you have to settle for “small” systems. Even when thinking “big”, many businesses still opt for systems branded as “SME friendly”. However many of these packages are limited in scope, or deliberately crippled so that you need to pay for a new system when you hit an artificial limit.
The Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) plans make enterprise grade software available to all. Rather than paying the massive cost of installing enterprise systems, SaaS and Cloud allow you to rent online access at a fraction of the normal cost, allowing you all the benefits that your larger clients recognise from their in-house systems for less. By 2015, spending on public cloud services (including SaaS) will make up 46 percent of all new IT spending. SaaS will make up 75% of that spend.
4. Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst
Big businesses are always concerned about data loss, planning for every eventuality. Data is the lifeblood of the modern business and any loss could incur crippling costs. Just because your business has a smaller data store, does not mean that you can cut corners on disaster recovery provisions. An office fire could put you quickly out of business if there is no up-to-date backup in place to cover such scenarios.
Examine your data security, identify risks and explore ways of mitigating each. If you act as though a disaster lurks around every corner, you have a much greater chance of surviving an unforeseen outage. Businesses can even take advantage of Cloud-backup services to spread risk, and share responsibility.
By outsourcing elements of their disaster recovery solution to the experts in their relative fields, smaller companies gain access to vital cost savings – since they’re sharing the overhead of the facility, infrastructure and skills required with a number of companies in the same situation.
5. Invisible Is Best
If you are aware of your IT, it probably isn’t working as well as it should. Unless you work in a technology firm of course! The very best IT systems work behind the scenes to assist with workflow and productivity without requiring significant user intervention. Big businesses regularly review their IT systems to identify potential improvements, particularly processes that could be improved through automation. Automation reduces duplicated effort by your staff and prevents manual error creeping into your business processes.
6. Bring Everything Together
Big businesses are currently consolidating their data so that they “see” everything in one place, using a methodology called ‘Big Data’. ’Big data’ allows organisations to incubate ideas and test them rapidly before they’re introduced to the mainstream product brand. Car manufactures are doing this frequently with prototypes, seeking ideas from potential customers.
Smaller businesses, on the other hand, tend to maintain several independent data sets tied to specific business units and applications. Linking disparate systems to gain similar advantages is now much easier than ever before, giving small businesses a chance to gain similar insights. Many applications also extend functionality, allowing you to consolidate data into fewer applications, immediately centralising data.
7. Stay Up To Date
Big businesses invest in new technology and software because the efficiency savings outweigh the outlay. Keeping on top of new developments allows them to adopt new functionality and capitalise on associated competitive advantages quickly. A frequent upgrade cycle is costly, making such an approach impossible for many SMEs. However, SaaS and hosted technology can help. Your business pays for what it uses and gets upgrades and updates automatically as part of the service charge.