Growing companies face constant pressure to do more with less and to improve IT capabilities to keep pace with competitors. With every dollar crucial, IT and business decision makers can't afford any of these missteps.
Brian Burch, HP
Small and midsized businesses (SMBs) are in the spotlight as the US pulls out of its recent economic turmoil. Although they are small in size, they are large in number: roughly 75 percent of all businesses in North America are SMBs. In 2010, they comprise a total addressable technology market of $55B in the U.S., making them a key component of the U.S. economy.
Traditional SMBs as well as "accidental entrepreneurs" (laid-off workers who started their own company during the recession) all feel the need to "do more with less employees", but surviving in the technology age and global marketplace can be overwhelming, and keeping up to date with latest technologies cost prohibitive. While many SMBs have in-house IT staff, IT decision making too often falls to senior managers or owners, who may have little experience or knowledge about IT.
It's no wonder that many decision makers feel that IT is too complicated and that they cannot manage the necessary changes to remain competitive. As a result, SMB decision makers inadvertently develop misconceptions about their technology needs. The most common misconceptions include:
1. "I Don't Need An IT Strategy."
SMBs clearly have growth potential (some of the largest businesses in the world began in a garage with one or two people), but few have a strategic IT plan. This is usually due to a lack of understanding of why an IT plan, even for a "one man show" is important. For most SMBs, IT infrastructures are built on an "as needed" or fragmentary approach, only investing as projects occur and with little consideration for how the investment will support the company's overall IT strategy.
A well developed and executed IT plan will ensure the right technology is implemented, improving customer satisfaction results and meeting company needs. Without an explicit plan, technologies are introduced into the company without focus and can diminish employee productivity and customer service.
Recent results of a 2009 Microsoft study showed that 55 percent of SMBs consider IT a critical component of their business. Of these, 60 percent saw revenue growth over the past 12 months. Among SMBs that stated that IT was not important, fewer than 29 percent saw an increase in revenue.
Developing an IT strategy is a means to achieving long-term success. If you haven't defined your goals, it will be difficult to reach them.
2. "I Can't Afford IT Expertise."
The most obvious contrast between SMBs and larger organizations is that many of the former do not have dedicated in-house IT departments to ensure that the right technology choices are being made. The above-mentioned Microsoft study cites an interesting statistic from AMI Partners: only about one-third of small businesses have dedicated IT staff, while the rest rely upon retailers, manufacturers and local IT partners. The person or people who are forced to handle IT decisions, in turn, are inundated with information about technology issues in addition to running the company. As a result, information falls through the cracks and costly mistakes can occur.
Smart SMB decision makers stay informed and turn to local IT solution providers for help. These companies have technical knowledge and broad expertise and can help find the best solutions to fit a company's needs and budget. Unfortunately, it often takes a security breach or other business-crippling event for SMBs to realize that IT expertise is just as valuable as a good lawyer or accountant. Many SMBs believe they can't afford IT expertise, but the truth is, they can't afford not to have it.
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