It’s one thing to know that your business technology solutions are working. That’s helpful information.
But it’s something else to know the minor changes that would make your business technology solutions even better—like tweaks that would save some money or the areas where you might run into trouble in the future.
Life without managed services.
55% of SMB owners say the business technology they use every day doesn’t help them become more efficient. It actually gets in the way. At the same time, “72% of SMB decision makers say that technology solutions can help them significantly improve business outcomes and/or run the business better.”
Do you see a problem there?
SMB owners are largely convinced of the benefits of business technology, but most of them don’t think they’re actually seeing those benefits, themselves. Ouch.
Bridging the gap.
If you’re taking care of your business technology yourself, there are things you can do to ensure a stable network today and strategic growth for where you’re headed. Here are four key questions to ask.
1. What Are You Using Now and Why?
This sounds like basic information, and it is. And yet, a lot of SMB owners have to stop and think before they can list off all the applications and services they rely on.
Small businesses grow organically. There’s a decent chance you’re using a mix of several different kinds of technology and services to meet your needs. And all those solutions might not even fit together well.
That’s why it’s important to take stock of your current situation. Carve out the time to make note of it all. We’re talking about the OS you use on company PCs, how your server is set up, every cloud solution and chat program and CRM you use—all of it.
Then do the real work and ask why. What business need does each solution meet? And how well does your current mix of services and solutions work together to meet those needs?
2. Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?
Now that you know where you are, where do you see yourself going? Will you double your staff in the next five years? If so, will you need to stop using Excel to track customer orders and move to a proper CRM?
It’s a lot easier to get out ahead of big changes on the horizon than wait until you’re in hot water. By the time you feel the pain of technology that isn’t particularly growth-oriented, it’ll be too late to change to something new without a hassle and some real consequences.
Basically, plan ahead. If something’s not working well now, it’ll only get worse as you grow.
A farmer had two sons. Separately, he gave both sons the same task—talk to the neighboring farmer about buying some cattle.
The first son came back to his father and said, “Our neighbor has six cows for sale.”
But the second son’s answer was quite different. “Our neighbor has six cows he’s willing to sell. He wants $2000 for each cow, but he’s willing to cut the price by 10% if we buy at least four of them. He also said he has some new cows coming in next week, a very promising group. He thinks they’ll be even better than the ones he has now. He said if we aren’t in a hurry, it would be wise to wait.”
It’s the same core information, but the second son was so much more strategic, providing crucial details that could easily inform the father’s next steps.
3. What Are Your Biggest Security Risks?
Cybersecurity is a big topic. It makes headlines all the time because it’s a big deal when a company of any size experiences a breach. And the negative publicity of a security mishap is something you don’t want.
So think about your business like a criminal would. Where are you weak? If you wanted to steal your own information, how would you do it?
Whatever your answer to that question, that’s where you need to upgrade your security. And if you’ve never really thought about security at all, maybe it’s time to talk to a professional consultant. After all, small businesses get targeted almost as much as big corporations.
Being an SMB doesn’t make you automatically safe. You need to be as careful as any other business.
Read more about protecting your company from ransomware here.
4. What Do Your Customers Care About the Most?
At the end of the day, what matters to your customers is their experience. So how does your technology affect your relationships with customers?
Is your phone system a nightmare to navigate? Are you using advanced communications options (everything from email to video chat) effectively? When customers contact you with questions and complaints, how long does it take for your staff to dig into customer records?
If you can harness the power of technology to make the customer’s experience better, then you’re using technology the right way.
The next level.
All of that might seem like a lot. Admittedly, it is, though we’ve seen plenty of small business owners do a masterful job of managing their own business technology.
But it won’t surprise you to learn that we believe there’s real value in partnering with a professional managed services provider for the very best technology strategy.
If you’d like to learn more about managed services and how they can benefit small businesses, check out our free whitepaper, “9 Ways Managed Services Pay Off Big for SMBs.”