When you see the terms ‘IT’ and ‘scale’ in the same sentence, many business owner or decision maker’s reaction is one of panic.
Scaling your business – however you plan to do it – is an endeavour that almost always involves an increased IT requirement. When you begin to scale your IT, you’re often looking down the barrel of a significant spend.
Therefore, the idea that IT might actually help – rather than hinder – your plans might surprise you – but, if you know what you’re doing and are willing to embrace a couple of different ways of working with technology, you may very well find that IT is actually on your side.
Here, we’ll look at the tech that’s helping small businesses and startups to fly – even when their need for tech increases…
Halt that IT recruitment drive
Recruiting IT staff might not be a part of your business expansion you’ve considered directly – but, if you’re planning to expand what you’re doing – there’s an inevitable IT infrastructure expansion that’s going to go alongside that.
Unfortunately, any upfront IT equipment cost is going to pale into insignificance when compared to the cost of supporting it with staff. Even a modest network will require at least one full-time member of staff – and, if you want to make sure you keep reasonable uptime figures – you might want to think about having more staff to cover vacations, nights, etc.
In essence, the message is this:
If you’re growing – there’s a strong possibility you’re going to need to factor far more money than you anticipated into IT.
The reasons? Well, there’s the cost of recruiting, training and employing your staff to start with – costs that are likely to be somewhere around 500% more than your actual IT hardware costs.
If this kind of cost looks difficult to swallow, then outsourcing your IT support to an experienced dedicated network provider could be the perfect answer. Not only do you completely circumvent the need for recruitment – you’re buying as much or as little IT support as you need; for a modest monthly cost.
There’s no need to worry about having people onside that don’t have a solid job description to follow either. With a well thought through plan of what you need (which a good service provider will help you with) – you’ll be able to draw up a ‘service level agreement’ too – detailing exactly what you need, what service will be delivered – and how much it’s going to cost.
Oh, and the cost? A tiny fraction of what you’d need to spend to find and keep an in-house team…
Get more from the same data
Generally speaking, people are very poor at handling data. Now, don’t misunderstand – when it comes to person-to-person interaction, acting on data is something that software can rarely outperform a human at – but the management of data is very definitely something that our easily distracted and poorly mapped out brains don’t do very well.
The thing is, your business data is likely to be the lifeblood of your company. Customer details, sales prospects, mailing lists, marketing analytics – and so on. Without it, there’s nothing to act on.
So, working with that data effectively is absolutely key to making sure your business is driving forward with the maximum level of speed and efficiency.
How to handle your data well?
With a dedicated CRM system.
CRM – or Customer Relationship Management – is a tool designed to support your end users in effectively working with customer data to maximum effect. The question is – how much more effective could you team be?
The answer? A LOT.
Studies show that effective use of a CRM system is likely to drive lead conversions up by anywhere between 70%-300%. Customer satisfaction? That could increase by upward of 80%. Complaints? Down by 70% or more.
Improvements in data yield even a fraction of the size of those figures would be impressive – and would allow you to either reduce your marketing spend while keeping the same result – or hold your spend as-is and see results go through the roof.
When it comes to scaling your business – there are few more satisfying ways to do it than seeing increased efficiency from the same outlay…
While we’re discussing efficiency – it’s close relation – productivity – is something that can also see incredible improvements when you embrace the right kind of IT.
Take a second to consider an effective team. There’s a very good chance you’re picturing the same thing as many other people would here – an positive hum of energy in a shared office – with team members who work well together, probably even sitting down and eating lunch together.
Shared workspaces have always been considered the best working environment – but, in actual fact, studies into collaboration are dispelling this myth. An increasing number of businesses are seeing far better employee working relationships when collaboration stops being a ‘real world’ pursuit – and is instead conducted online.
Workplace communication and planning tools such as Slack and Basecamp are extremely useful ways to coordinate with one another – and the collaborative elements of desktop suites like G-Suite and Office 365 mean that the days of emailing spreadsheets, documents and projects to one another are on their way out too.
But, what’s the tangible result?
Well, although studies into collaboration are difficult to get exactly right – early suggestions point at a 10% increase in output from teams whose primary means of collaborating is via online services and platforms. For a team of 5 people working full-time, that’s effectively another 1,000 working hours you’ve created each year – or the equivalent to having another part-time member of staff working 20 hours each week.
From a growth point of view – that means working with online collaboration tools enormously increases your potential workload – and, the best part is, the majority of the tools needed can be accessed free of charge – or on a ‘pay for what you use’ software as a service payment plan.
Suddenly, IT doesn’t look like the hinderance to growth it once was…