Do you struggle with determining the best path for technology investments for your small business? The development and execution of IT strategies can be a challenge. When considering an appropriate budget, there is a temptation to engage in a reactive IT strategy, fixing things when they are broken rather than looking for ways to manage problems before they occur. However, by considering the following strategies, your small business can make the move to a proactive approach to IT that helps achieve your organization’s overall objectives.
Consider short- and long-term objectives
Investing in technology is complex and will have implications throughout your organization. When considering an investment, be clear about whether it is aimed at alleviating the problems of today or providing greater opportunities for stability and growth over time. Focus on achieving your business goals to help clarify this decision. Additionally, prioritize the implementation of new or updated technology across different areas of your organization. This allows you to maintain greater control over day-to-day operations while changes are made.
Manage current as well as new technology
Define a role in your organization for a point person to oversee technology. Whether your IT is managed internally or outsourced, having a primary point of contact helps streamline reporting and resolution of technology issues. Be proactive and organized when it comes to vendor contracts and necessary upgrades so that you are not taken by surprise at growing inefficiencies. Achieve a more effective prioritization and investment by defining a contact to act as the conduit for organizing IT needs, issues, complaints, ongoing maintenance, and centralized upgrades.
Be intentional when implementing new technology
It is tempting to invest in the latest technology, but it is important to take a comprehensive look at what solutions will be most beneficial to your organization.
- Business Solutions – Solutions for managing data, lines of business, fiscal systems, etc. are readily available and can be attractive for enhancing business operations but implementing too much new technology at one time can pose unexpected problems. Start by aligning business goals with new solutions as well as looking for inefficiencies in business processes and prioritizing your efforts to make the most of your investment of time and money.
- Implementation Approach - When implementing new technology, make sure you take the time to create and review an action plan. Consider the best plan for the organization to ensure minimal down time as well as ample time for smooth adoption. One possible way to approach new technology is to tier the rollout to your organization. Prioritize and then stagger the implementation of new or updated technology across different areas of the business to maintain smooth, consistent operations during transition.
- Infrastructure/Hardware - Choices exist for how you design and manage the infrastructure used for day-to-day activities. Consider the needs of your staff as well as established workflows when planning for infrastructure and hardware changes. Establish policies to guide upgrades and safe use. You may want to consider implementing cloud solutions which can directly address security, backup/recovery, collaboration, upgrades, and maintenance concerns. Providing a more flexible work environment can be achieved by increasing the availability of mobile connectivity enabling employees to work remotely and potentially off hours. If deepening your cloud or mobile presence is the right path for your business, it should be included in the plan and budget.
- Evaluate Effectiveness – Be sure to include an evaluation of the effectiveness of your technology investments after implementation as part of the plan. At the outset of any project, clearly identify the desired outcome. For example, before adopting a new customer database, determine target performance, requirements, and processes to evaluate the new technology. After implementation is complete and the technology has been up and running, evaluate the effectiveness by comparing those targets to your metrics. By instituting measures to evaluate new technology, your organization can be confident that the implementation was successful. In addition, if results are not as expected, modifications can be made to achieve the desired outcome.
Provide training alongside new or upgraded technology
Prepare staff before, during, and after the implementation. Evaluate current skillsets and define what employees need to know about the changes. Provide effective training programs and take advantage of webinars and online tutorials to educate staff on new functionality and enhance existing skills. A tiered strategy for training can be effective when different skill levels are defined including; required, need to know, and nice to know. Some implementations might also require in house training which can be delivered through courses designed to ensure that staff receive a streamlined, customized learning experience.
Take advantage of the data you are collecting
Businesses typically collect a large amount of data including client information, various types of analytics, sales, etc. If you have a data collection solution in place, it is a good idea to review your results and look at ways that you can complete at least some level of analysis against your data. Analytics tools are useful for measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, new lines of business, impact of existing services, geographic expansion, etc.
Your data collection and analytics efforts should focus on your business goals. This will facilitate building more robust datasets to provide enhanced analytics and actionable business information. For example, you can use data to build a focused marketing plan that leverages the success of previous marketing initiatives or explore additional service offerings uncovered by analyzing feedback from existing clients.
Leverage technology for online engagement
Social media outreach is key for small businesses to maintain competitiveness in a world of digital communication. Exposure, client communication, and customer engagement are all enhanced by having your organization on social media. Neglecting these efforts can result in decreased brand recognition and potential loss of revenue. In addition to presenting information about your organization, you can highlight new products, share information about your involvement in the community, offer client success stories, and gather contact information for those interested in your products or services.
Develop a strategy for your online presence that focuses on attaining specific goals through your website and social media. A strategy can include a marketing plan for targeting a specific audience and specific staffing assignments to oversee the implementation and evaluation of the strategy. Another important component of your strategy is ensuring that you have the means to collect and document your data such as a customer relationship management database (CRM) which can manage your contacts, prospects, and opportunities.
Email marketing and social media channels can also be used to drive website traffic, increase brand recognition, and help connect with existing clients to build a network and increase visibility.
How Ninestone can help
Ninestone can assist with identifying your organization’s needs and developing a strategy to improve your IT landscape. Whether it is looking for ways to get more from software solutions or organizing and managing your IT solutions to improve efficiency, we can help. Ninestone has proven experience working closely with small businesses to assess their current IT environment and develop proactive strategies to leverage technology for success while staying on budget.
The Ninestone Team