Purchasing the right digital technology can transform a small company’s performance – but making the wrong choice can be disastrous.
It’s also easy to make the wrong choice when you’re under pressure, so tackle your big IT decisions in a planned and positive way. After all, digitally-advanced small businesses can grow fast, often earning twice as much revenue per employee, according to research*.
Here are my five steps to follow when purchasing IT:
Step #1: Be clear about your business goals
Are you trying to fix a problem, find a way to do something new, or maybe both? Think about this in simple business terms, before diving into the tech. Perhaps you need to handle office tasks faster, communicate better when your team are on the road, protect your intellectual property, or manage compliance? Establish clear goals to protect you from being dazzled into buying flashy technology you don’t need.
Step #2: Get outside expertise you can trust
If you’ve got someone in your team who understands IT, that’s great. However, most SMEs won’t know the tech market inside out. So, find an independent consultant — ideally, someone recommended to you. It’s essential this person grasps your goals, empathises with your challenges and is committed to your success.
Step 3: Align your business and IT roadmaps
Your advisor will help you to explore your business challenges — and see how various technical solutions will impact your IT infrastructure. You’ll probably start getting into the finer details around content management systems, applications, fibre, bandwidth, IP addresses, firewalls, mobility and much more.
With your advisor’s help, you’ll be able to identify the kind of solution you’ll need, and a good idea of the budget required. Also, think about performance headroom for tomorrow: If the business takes off, you don’t want to be in this situation again in 12 months.
Step 4: Choose your tech from the right provider
As a small company, it’s unlikely that the world’s most prominent IT vendors will be rolling out the red carpet for you. However, you’ll find local or regional IT companies that offer a full suite of services — sourcing top-grade hardware, software and subscriptions … and getting you up and running. Once you’ve found a solution that meets your brief, explore the pricing models. You might find that pay-per-use and subscriptions help your cash-flow.
However, make sure the IT services are independent and selling products for multiple suppliers rather than herding all their clients towards a single vendor.
Step 5: Implement your IT properly
IT deployments often go wrong because businesses poorly manage them — souring relationships with staff, suppliers and customers.
Avoid this by working with the IT services company and your advisor to create a launch plan that includes testing, staff training and a roll-out with proper tech support.
Let the staff know what you hope to achieve and how it’ll make their lives easier. Get customers on board too.
Was it all worth it?
Once you’ve bedded in your new system, go back to your original brief and ask yourself: Did our new tech deliver on its promises? It’s always good to have metrics in place that prove what’s working and what still needs tweaking.
Once an IT solution is working well, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction. However, IT isn’t a ‘one and done’ activity. In today’s digital world, SMEs need to be fast on their feet. Fortunately, the right tech can make you agile and punch above your weight.
• Stefano Maifreni, Founder & Director of Eggcelerate, the business expansion advisors.
*Source: ‘Small business technology trends’– Deloitte