Small business IT implemention can be very challenging due on one hand to the limitation of resources available and on the other the high reliance on the infrastructure for the business (order processing, inventory, etc.) While IT may often fall in the important but not urgent category, consider these 6 top considerations for IT in your small business:
While many small businesses only get help for IT when something breaks or there is a problem, being reactive can be costly in the long run. Just as we forecast sales and expenses, taking a proactive approach to IT can help take your business to the next level. What are the projects on the horizon? What is the preventative maintenance strategy? How will IT systems be monitored? How will you handle a disaster in your IT infrastructure? Just putting a rough plan together for some of these questions is beyond where many small businesses are today.
2. Due Diligence
All too often, those overseeing IT resources do not know what they have. If, for example, you have support contracts, take the time to understand the responsibilties of both parties. Does the contract reflect the right services for you given the state of your rollout? Even if you are not yet in production for a particular project, having an IT infrastructure that is secure, performing well and production-ready is of value. A good service provider will happily modify service levels to fit the changing needs of the business based on this review.
While enabling employees with technology can substantially enhance performance, an infrastructure without oversight will cause problems. Access to what Web sites is really required for the needs of the business? While it would be nice to have loose controls, security infrastructure is always going to balance cost, ease of use and risk. Fighting viruses after the fact, for example, is often not worth the cost. This means that an infected machine may have to be entirely rebuilt. Having policies, therefore, that limit high risk Web usage may have a long-term benefit even though it may seem restrictive.
If your IT provider does not know what the business needs, it cannot properly prepare the right resources. It takes a little time to document this, but it will make your use of these resources (whether internal or IT Managed Services) all the more effective. Having gone through the steps of proactivity, due diligence and governance, put the results of these on paper and have a dialogue with your provider prior to engaging. It may be that when service is provided, additional personnel will be available or perhaps a different project needs to be created.
Having facilities and personnel ready for IT implementation is key. At the time of execution, IT resources are often a perishable resource. This could be a scheduled visit with your IT provider or simply precious time of internal employees. Any dependencies for IT implementaiton should be identified and prepared so that IT implementation can proceed unabated. This is particularly true if there are multiple vendors involved. Is the infrastructure able to be serviced, if the software vendor is installing something or training? Probably not.
Finally, the most successful small businesses establish budgets for IT whether they are insourced or outsourced. This is a bit like having some of your stock portfolio in cash. Without an IT budget, it will not be possible to take advantage of technology advances that can actually save money, but require some investment for deployment.
The journey from reactive to proactive IT in a small business takes time, but stepping back from the daily grind to consider a few areas for your business is worth the effort. IT can be a strategic asset for your business with a little investment of management mindshare.
How do you implement IT in your business?
- Taking a proactive approach to IT can help take your business to the next level
- Understand your existing IT contracts and implement appropriate governance
- Proper communication and preparation will maximize the value of IT resources
- Budgeting gives more flexibility in taking advantage of cost-saving and revenue maximizing IT initiatives