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Small businesses must be crafty, outmaneuvering their larger competitors in order to survive and ultimately thrive. One way to do that is to make better or faster decisions, and that takes collaboration among employees and business partners.
Yet even as IT budgets start to rise, small and midsize businesses are torn over whether to invest in collaboration projects, InformationWeek Analytics research shows. One-third of SMBs are increasing their IT spending in support of collaboration compared with last year, just over half are spending the same amount, and 15% are cutting that spending, according to our Outlook 2011 Survey of 260 business tech pros at companies with 1,000 or fewer employees.
The key for small business IT leaders is to recognize early when their collaboration or information-sharing processes are breaking down and impeding the business. A slew of emerging collaboration systems can help SMBs, but this decision's much more nuanced than building a storage or data communication network. Sure, every business has unique infrastructure needs, but for the most part, the plumbing that works for small business A will probably work for small business B, with some tweaks here and there. But when it comes to building a successful collaboration and information-sharing strategy, what works for business A may never work for business B.
There are pitfalls to implementing any new collaboration tools, just like with any tech-driven strategy. Some will resist, particularly those who fear losing control of the information flow. On the opposite end of the spectrum will be those who treat collaboration as a goal unto itself rather than focus on the business problems these new collaboration tools should solve.
The good news is that many SMBs will have more IT resources than last year as they consider whether collaboration is a priority. A bit more than half (56%) expect their IT budgets to rise compared with a year ago, and only 20% expect a cut (see chart, right). Should improving collaboration be among the priorities SMBs attack with those IT dollars? Both employee expectations and the tools for collaboration are changing fast, so IT leaders who haven't assessed this landscape lately need to pay attention.