– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO
When you’re getting a small business up and running, your employee costs are going to be the biggest outlay, closely followed by IT. All modern business depends heavily on technology to keep functioning, so it’s no surprise that it’s going to eat up a large part of your resources. If you’re just starting to plan out the IT infrastructure for your business, then it may feel like there’s a long and stressful process ahead of you. However, with the right approach, you can dodge all the trial and error, and hit your IT on the head the first time around. Here’s some of the most valuable advice I can offer.
The first thing to bear in mind to simplify your IT process is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on it. True, setting up a functional infrastructure from scratch is never going to be cheap. However, there are many companies that spend far more than they actually need to. Usually this is from some misplaced belief that the more money you throw at technology, the more secure you’ll be from any issues with it. If this is your attitude, I urge you to change it immediately! There’s IT support, equipment and other services for companies of all shapes and sizes, and you don’t need to spend any more on it than what you actually need. It’s pretty common for small business owners to blow a large chunk of their budget on a new server, when all they really need is a network hard drive with backup protection. The latter option typically costs about a tenth of the price of the former, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by making these kinds of budgeting blunders! The most important thing when making these big decisions is to get trusted, expert advice. It may be tempting to lean on the resident IT whizz at your company. However, this usually leads to hiccups, delays and increased costs if they find they’re out of their element.
Another way you can make the whole process easier on yourself is by investing in some mobile solutions. Almost every business could benefit by investing in tablets, but it’s especially important for small, undeveloped ventures. When you’re first starting out, it’s pretty likely that you may have to move offices, or switch over to a managed office space. With the dawn of cloud technology and other communication tools, it’s pretty likely that you have remote workers that you may need to rush out and visit. In situations like these, having a decent array of mobile devices can be an absolute godsend. Thanks to the invention of tablets, we’re seeing more and more promising ventures going paperless. When businesses were relying on clipboards and documents, it was a normal thing for important data to get lost, and entering it on a digital platform took up a lot of valuable time. Today, when you’re working within a cloud infrastructure, anything you enter into a tablet can be copied instantly to your office’s servers. If anyone at your company spends a lot of time away from the office or otherwise on the move, then going mobile is something you should seriously consider. Neglect mobile tech, and your productivity is sure to suffer.
Be sure to create a good infrastructure around your business for monitoring and securing your data. Technology’s always racing ahead, and in 2016 there are various cybersecurity threats which business owners need to be aware of. Using authenticators, good anti-virus and malware technology, and backing up your sensitive information should all be on your to-do list. You also need to have some good tools in place for monitoring and managing your more open data. Web optimization is a big one, as a strong online presence is now so mandatory for any kind of business. Tools such as Google Analytics will make it easier for you to monitor web traffic, and understand the impact your digital marketing efforts are having. Your website can be your best friend, but only if you understand how to utilize it properly! Project tracking is another important tool you should be utilizing. When you’re trying to conduct some kind of large project, understanding your expenditures and what they’re actually returning is essential. Programs such as Basecamp can make it easier through setting out your time-frames and cost allocation in a simple, user-friendly interface. This will show you how realistic your project plans are. If they’re simply not practical, then these tracking tools will show you exactly where the gaps are between your projected results and your current productivity. Sales monitoring software is another handy tool which you may think of bringing into your infrastructure. You may be pretty familiar and comfortable with spreadsheets. However, in the modern business arena Excel is going to be lacking a lot of actionable insight. Instead, look into some cloud-based solutions which will show you how, where and when your customers are spending, and what this means for the future of your marketing.
Finally, know when to outsource. Seen as your business is small and in the process of growing, you probably don’t have a wide range of talent at your fingertips which you can use whenever you want. At the same time though, I’m sure you want your operation to be as independent as possible. You may have some qualms about outsourcing IT solutions, but trust me when I say that it’s often the best option for small start-ups. If you keep trying to add auxiliary departments to your existing business, you’ll generally end up overspending, and being left with a company that you don’t know how to manage effectively. Instead of trying to expand too rapidly, it’s a better idea to center all your operations around your business’s established strengths. This way, all your ongoing human capital costs will align more closely with your long-term sales objectives. If you run into any technological issues which you’re finding too much to handle, then outsourcing it can save you massive amounts of time and money.