As technology continues to evolve, businesses are trying to stay ahead of the curve. Successful SMBs are continually pushing and making their IT a central core of their organization. This means having technology help, dictate, and manage how the majority of your business objectives are accomplished or delegated. This is because technology is systematically changing the tools, practices and architecture of businesses.
To help facilitate this integration and shift, we at Quartet have listed some tips and strategies to help SMBs better manage and steer their technology integration more successfully.
1. Increasing communication channels between IT and your other departments.
Face it, considering the impact and reach of technology in any business your IT department will play a large role in your organization. Therefore it’s paramount that SMBs implement the ability for different departments to have a clear channel of communication between themselves and your IT department. This will help not only to increase productivity, efficiency, but also the added benefit of allowing more cross disciplinary information to be spread, thus reducing silos of information.
This also adds the additional benefit of educating and fostering the transfer of knowledge between employees who otherwise wouldn’t be exposed, such as managers, sales, marketing, human resources and IT departments. With a greater acknowledgement of how and what other departments are working on, it will foster and encourage a growing sense of community, with each employee looking for solutions that their counterparts wouldn’t have initially seen or recognized, thus allowing for better teamwork and innovative solutions outside of their core sphere.
Another important caveat of having clear communication channels between different departments is that as a business you’ll have a clear sense of what is working and what needs to be improved on. This will allow you to invest and find solutions to problems that usually wouldn’t be addressed, as the decision makers usually aren’t the ones involved or aware of the day to day problems of any departments.
2. Understanding how to invest in technology for the best ROI.
With technology playing a central role in your organization, it’s important that you invest in particular tools that will help you accomplish your business objectives. Doing so will allow you the ease and access to technology that will not only drive your business forward, but also let you be at the steering wheel and control which exact business objectives you want to focus on.
This is complete shift away from the mindset of simply purchasing technology as a support system, and instead uses technology as a means of accomplishing your goals. The former uses technology as an added benefit, while the latter uses it as a vehicle to accomplish goals, tasks and improve efficiency. Therefore it’s important you have a clear outline of what exactly you want to accomplish and the available tools in the market.
- You will need to have a clear idea of what business objectives you want to accomplish. This is the starting point of any decision in your business. Do you want to increase customer engagement? Increased feedback on your products or services? Are you looking to improve your communication network? Do you want to expand your cloud network? Having a clear and detailed idea of what objectives you want to accomplish will act as a compass and map when trying to navigate the marketplace.
- What tools do we already have and how can we improve them? Having an in-depth understanding of the tools and technology you already have in place is a good way of understanding what you currently do and whether these tools are accurately being used. Due to the growing demands of a specialists vs. generalists’ workforce, it’s hard to know whether you’re workforce is adequately educated and prepared to use the tools that are available to them, so it could give the impression that your technological tools are ineffective, when in fact they’re just not being used properly.
An easy fix for this to run workshops and educational courses on how to adequately use technology for each department, as each department will have different needs and wants when it comes to using technology.
After doing this, it’s important to know which tools you are currently using and want to upgrade or improve on. This will help cut out and narrow down the list of tools you have to purchase or simply upgrade, saving you time and money in the long term.
- Entering the marketplace. Now that you’ve narrowed down what you need to purchase or upgrade, entering the marketplace will be a simple process of targeting and speaking to vendors that offer the exact solutions you are looking for. This process is simplified because you have already figured out your business objectives, tools that you will need to accomplish those objectives and have consolidated with existing solutions and tools in your business, so entering the marketplace will simply be a process of find the adequate tools for your needs.
- Installation and maintenance of your technological tools. Once you have purchased and installed your tools, it’s now in your best interest to ensure a proper ROI to perform maintenance and make sure they’re running as efficiently as possible. This is the responsibility of your IT department as well as any department currently using these tools. Doing so will ensure as an SMB you will get the most out of any technology you invest in and allows a better idea for both the end-users and IT departments of any issues or problems that arise during the use of the technology, thus reducing downtimes, unforeseen repair costs and inefficiencies with any technology.
- Perform routine assessments of your current and future solutions. Technological innovation moves at a fast pace. Therefore it’s important to understand and be involved in the process and routinely perform assessments of your existing technological solutions to determine if there are faster, more efficient and cost savings options available. This will ensure you’re always moving towards becoming a more lean and productive organization, while also avoiding running an outdated or vulnerable technological network.
- Keeping your employees in the loop and getting feedback. Now that you have a detailed and outlined process of how to determine and purchase technology solutions in your organization it’s important to keep everyone of your employees in the loop and perform employee surveys to help your SMB determine whether they’re in fact helping or ways to improve them. The end-users will have a better understanding of the tools they’re using then anyone, therefore it’s important to get their feedback and ensure they’re apart of the process.
Following these 6 steps will ensure you get the best bang for your buck and help direct your organization in investing in the proper technology tools to better foster integration and tools to accomplish your businesses objectives.
3. Making use of experts.
Contracting and consulting with technological experts can be a vast help to any SMB. Unless your expertise is situated in the IT, it’s in your best interest to consult with outside technological experts to assess and review your technological solutions and network. This is beneficial as you will be able to tap and use experts for a fraction of the cost it would take to employee them in-house while still getting access to the same service.
Experts can help determine if the solutions you have are the most beneficial for what you’re trying to accomplish, whether your installation and use of technology is adequate, or reviewing your security network and ensuring everything is up to date. Making use of outside resources and experts is smart move for businesses who don’t have the resource to have a fully functional IT department.
Although experts are available at any times, they offer the most benefit when organizations are looking to upgrade and need the option of an expert, security issues, or running workshops and educating their workforce.
Along this vein the outsourcing or contracting your IT services is also an additional benefit for SMBs. The ability to outsourcing specific IT operations like help desk, security, server management, mobile management allows organization to focus the majority of their energy and resources to more pressing matters such as accomplishing their business objectives or product development, as it’s a lot cheaper to outsourcing services such as these then it is to have them in-house. Similar to using experts, outsourcing will allow you the ability to contract and use organizations whose sole focus are these services, which mean they’ll have the resources, personal and experiences to give you the best service for you needs, as opposed to in-house IT department trying to juggle all these tasks.
4. Become a part of the technological conversation and innovation.
Technology is moving at a fast pace, therefore it’s in the best interests of SMBs to want to be included and participant in the ways technology is being developed and shaped. The ability to do so, not only puts SMBs on the frontier of new technology and solutions but allows them the ability to tailor and impact the way technology shifts. This is paramount for any business looking to continual innovate and change.
- Attend industry technology conferences. Attending and participating in industry technology conferences puts you on the frontline of new innovations and gives you the ability to get first hand experience with prototypes and solutions. This will also provide a playing field where you can network with other businesses in your industry and see some of the solutions that they’re using and which ones aren’t. This will provide real time feedback and allows you to better asses your own solutions and where you can improve on.
- Speak directly to vendors and contractors. Having the ability to speak directly with vendors and contractors will allow SMBs the ability to get some foresight into the way technology is shifting and moving towards, not to mention being able to tailor and create solutions directly with vendors and contractors to accommodate this shift. Having access to those who are directly involved in the innovation or are the most knowledgeable will have a dramatic impact on the way you view technology and the access you get to newest solutions.
- Test and provide feedback on any technological innovation you’re using. Developing a relationship and having access to technology allows you the ability to test and provide feedback to the developers and vendors of your solutions. This will enable them to adequately target the problems and solve them properly, thus giving you the exact solutions that will solve your needs even if they don’t exist yet.
If an application doesn’t have a particular program or task, being able to recommend or ask the solution provider if they have a different solution that does, gives them the space and feedback to either offer a fix for your problem or develop a solution directly for you, both solving your needs and helping your business grow.
Technology will continue to grow and innovate. Being able to capitalize on these innovations to help your business grow is in every SMBs best interest. If you follow these four steps you’ll be adequately prepared to both foster IT integration in your business and also stay ahead of the curve be ready for any new solutions available that will help you grow your business and accomplish your business objectives.