There is technology that is crucial for growing small businesses and technology that becomes critical for medium-sized businesses. What are those technologies? Why are they so important? How are they leveraged? Read on for the answers.
Databases and Intranet
I believe that networked computers and a central database are critical for small businesses. This can be accomplished through onsite physical networking that includes an onsite server…and a backup server or offsite, via sharing platforms (i.e., Microsoft Sharepoint or Google Docs) that include storage / backup to the cloud. As companies grow to over 50 people, I believe that intranets should be strongly considered, especially if employees share a large quantity of confidential information or share it often.
Customer Relationship Management
I am a huge believer in CRM systems. In order to ensure that engagement with potential, prospective, current, and former customers is tracked, CRM is essential. I believe CRM is important for companies of one – it just streamlines the recordkeeping and automates many correspondence processes, as well as tracks the entire pipeline process in one place. As companies grow, CRM becomes critical to providing consistent customer engagement and assessing how different marketing and sales initiatives perform.
For billing, accounting and financial data, financial tracking software such as Quickbooks is critical. As companies exceed 100 employees or have hundreds or thousands of customers, larger financial platforms that tie into databases and that integrate with other software are necessary.
GPS (Transportation industries)
For transportation-related industries, GPS trackers are crucial. One can track where the vehicles are and more advanced devices can track speed and other vehicle data. This helps to more effectively manage the vehicles, routes, etc.
Outsource or Hire IT resources?
Most companies need to hire people who are technologically proficient in the software that is relevant to their roles. Most small companies can outsource much of their IT needs. There are more IT companies out there that can provide everything from basic IT tech support (i.e., my screen has frozen, what do I do?) to software and hardware installation and maintenance. Some of the larger firms have partnerships or alliances with various IT-related firms or technology providers so they can relatively seamlessly connect a customer with another technological entity that can better serve that particular need. This connectivity is critical to avoid having a patchwork of solutions that do not work with one another. Only when a company heavily uses complex technology (i.e., the technology is a core strategic asset) or has grown so much that its IT outsourcing costs begin to exceed the cost of an in-house team should it hire IT or similar employees directly.
What to look for
When hiring directly, small businesses should look for experience addressing a full spectrum of IT problems including computers, servers, databases, software implementations and integrations. No one will be superb in all areas but he or she needs to have sufficient knowledge to address common issues and to quickly obtain assistance when the issue is beyond his or her scope of expertise. If a business has a very high investment in certain platforms, someone is needed who understands those platforms and who can generally correct issues with assistance from the platform provider.
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