As in most things, the answer to the question "do managed services benefit small businesses?" is "it depends." As unsatisfying as that response may be because of our seemingly inherent desire to drive things to black and white statements, some benefit and some do not.
Topics: Small Business IT Resources, small business it support, Managed IT Services, small business solutions, IT Managed Services, Utilizing Technology in Business, small business IT infrastructure, IT best practices, IT Strategy
As a small to medium business (SMB), your IT infrastructure plays a critical role in your overall strategy. The least expensive way to run technology is through process, but the problem is that it is difficult for the average small and medium business to develop an effective IT process, because of the extensive skills, tools and resources required. It takes a village - one that can be amortized across a broad customer base to gain sufficient economies of scale to make it cost-effective.
There are a dozen different technology areas in which an organization needs expertise in order to effectively execute a technology process for a small business, so it is very difficult for an SMB to have a dedicated IT person with all of these skills. An IT process is not simply a static list of to-dos that, once-completed, is shelved. The firm you choose to help you develop and implement your IT process should understand that the process is a living, breathing, dynamic outline of your approach to IT, ensuring that your IT infrastructure is aligned with your business goals, that you are proactively addressing the challenges of your business using best practices, and that you have a clear idea about the true cost of IT. Your IT process has to be dynamic and changing because technology and your business are always changing.
Most business owners realize they play a major role in choosing partners to provide the services they need, whether it’s for information technology, logistics, sales leads, marketing or accounting. Oftentimes, though, the selection process becomes hurried, is limited to just a few referrals, or is delegated to someone who has little insight into the challenges that lie ahead. The consequences can be disappointing, both in terms of quality and overhead cost. Because the partners you choose can significantly impact your bottom line, your role should be squarely focused on “getting it right” when seeking out potential partners.
As a small business owner, you face numerous challenges, not the least of which is choosing the right IT provider. Business owners often do not understand their true costs stemming from technology. The true costs of IT are not what the company pays to the service provider but far more related to productivity, risk, and ROI. Such an important business decision probably should not be delegated to another team member.
As the needs of your small business evolve, your employees within your company are often required to evolve as well – even if that means doing jobs within the company that they were not hired to do or trained to do – like performing IT functions. How would your small business benefit if your IT people were doing what they were trained to do instead of managing IT and putting out IT-related fires?
Leading IT managed service providers are proactive solutions providers who partner with your business to implement IT best practices as a function of meeting your business goals. What sets leading IT managed service providers apart is their ability to be more than ingredient providers. Ingredient providers offer a specific component to meet a particular need often in a reactive manner. They may focus on fixing problems as they arise, akin to functioning as a fire fighter armed with nothing more than a fire extinguisher. Leading IT managed service providers operate under the assumption that IT is a tool leveraged by the business to meet its goals. Rather than waiting for a fire, they install a sprinkler system overhead to minimize any potential issues in the form of IT best practices.
Whether your small business serves retail customers or other businesses, you are only successful in the eyes of your customers if you can meet their expectations of success - not your parameters. As a small business, it is critical, then, to understand what it is your customers expect as an outcome and then have a plan in place for ensuring you can deliver to their expectations. Because technology is one of the primary tools small businesses leverage in order to achieve the results their customers expect, having a comprehensive IT plan and proactive IT infrastructure is crucial to the success of your business.
You’ve heard the cliché: “The greater the risk, the greater the reward.” While that is a popular creed among venture capitalists and entrepreneurial businesses, most presidents and CEOs of small businesses prefer a sound program for managing capital expenditures, one that balances the fiscal risk of investment in business technology with a safe ROI.
How many business owners are familiar with the intricacies of small business IT infrastructure? Many business owners understand the results they want, but they don't have the time to properly analyze their IT infrastructure. They set their focus on business growth and relationship development, often ignoring the risks associated with having poor IT services.