This year has proven volatile so far for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). As small businesses fight for higher revenue and market share, one of the key hurdles is underperforming IT. SMEs are not the only victims of poor IT implementations – inefficient and unreliable IT is a limiting factor for many larger businesses. Unfortunately, underperforming IT poses a greater cost to small businesses, which are typically undiversified and have a much smaller fixed platform across which to spread the cost of a failed IT project. SMEs typically compete with larger firms by offering innovative products and reducing waste. Having reliable and cost effective software in place is critical. Let’s look at some of the main technology challenges that SMEs face.
Over-reliance on locally hosted tools
On-site IT solutions have a place in many businesses, although advances in cloud security have largely removed key advantages of locally hosted software. More than ever before, SMEs are looking towards new ways of achieving higher production and less downtime. Relying on entire suites of on-site software undermines these efforts.
With access to cloud-based software, employees are able to work flexibly from home or while travelling, improving productivity and reducing business continuity risks. This is essential for businesses with staff who travel often or work from multiple locations; for example, a production manager within a small manufacturer can use online inventory management software to keep track of inventory levels across multiple warehouses from any location with an internet connection. Cloud-based solutions also allow team members to work on the go – when inventory is delivered to a customer, mobile devices and online inventory management software mean that stock levels and fulfilment records can be updated in real time.
Managing business continuity risk
Despite the best efforts of IT professionals, IT systems regularly fail to meet service delivery standards. From time to time, IT systems will fail to operate altogether; servers crash, key files are deleted and backups fail. Without a dedicated IT function, SMEs often have to contend with more frequent IT disruptions than larger firms. Many small businesses are looking towards cloud software to achieve better service delivery and better mitigate risk. Cloud software providers operate at scale and are therefore much better positioned to invest in security, data safety and business continuity.
Under-investment in core IT infrastructure
While some SMEs are at the cutting edge of technology, others fail to take full advantage of technology and automation. Many small businesses undertake inexpensive (or cash flow positive) upgrades, such as shifting to cloud-based software. Unfortunately, financial cost often deters small businesses from undertaking much needed technology upgrades.
Despite the significant efficiency gains businesses realise when they move to a barcode-based online inventory management system, many businesses continue to manually label products and track inventory using spreadsheets or clipboards. This failure to invest is generally borne out of a poor understanding of the costs and benefits of new technology. While some IT projects will have a relatively low expected ROI, others are enormously beneficial; small business owners and managers should take time to assess which IT upgrades are likely to result in a net benefit. Online inventory management, for example, is relatively inexpensive to implement but can significantly reduce the amount of inventory needed to be held by a business.