Top 10 SMB IT Mistakes

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Small and medium businesses (SMBs) can benefit extraordinarily from the adoption and exploitation of technology.  SMBs are often the greatest beneficiaries of gains in productivity, communication, and lowered cost of doing business through the careful application of technology.

For decades, SMBs have suffered from the inability to access sophisticated ERP solutions, formalization and automation of mature business processes, creation of integrated supply/value chain communication, and a distinct lack of overall information safety and business continuity.

Fortunately, those days are over.  SMBs now have available the infrastructure, tools, and processes that drive substantial business value.  Unfortunately, there is a problem…  SMBs seem to repeatedly make common mistakes that keep them from exploiting technology for business value.  The common mistakes are:

  1. Remaining Technology Averse:  Usually byproducts of a lack of skill, ignorance, or emotional biases, many SMB leaders view technology as a ‘necessary evil’ or ‘last resort.’  Don’t fall into this trap.  The advances and ready access to technology has well documented and proven benefits for SMBs.  Explore options, adopt strategies, and see how  technology in your SMB drives up productivity, eliminates human error, improves customer relationships, and lowers business costs.
  2. No Evaluation Process:  Make no mistake; adopting technology requires a formalized process and careful consideration.  Due to the cost and potential organizational disruption, SMBs that casually adopt technology tend to overspend while not meeting strategic and tactical objectives.  Pass all technology decisions through the ‘filter’ of a process to ensure greater success and lowered spending.
  3. “We Can Handle It” Decision Making:  Often the SMB leader is accustomed to making most, if not all, the important decisions within the business.  If he takes this behavior into technology decision-making, it is a mistake.  Due to the complexity, speed of change, and range of choice, rely on highly skilled technology experts to help guide you through the process.  You can make the decision, but don’t  rely solely  on yourself to marshal the right information and recommendation.
  4. “Home Grown” IT Support:  Too often it is the case where an internal employee is identified as the technology ‘go-to’ person.  Whether that person is skilled and experienced in IT is almost always irrelevant.  They’re picked because ‘someone has to help us.’  Taking this approach creates stress on the individual as they try to support the user community, while doing their ‘real job.’  The approach frustrates users because they can’t get the right help they need when they need it.  Also, this approach adds significant cost to the business.
  5. Focusing on Lowest Price:  SMBs have a notorious reputation for being ‘cheap.’  This isn’t to say that SMB leaders aren’t willing to invest in their business – in fact the opposite is true.  Instead, when the decision to buy is made, every effort is focused on getting to the lowest possible price, even at the cost of compromising functionality or not meeting business requirements.  To be sure, don’t overspend.  But pay for the functionality and benefit you require and don’t cut corners.
  6. Keeping Old Technology Too Long:  It is prudent to maximize return on investment in every area of the business.  This includes technology.  There is a point, however, where taking this perspective with older technology holds the business back by not bringing in the newest capability to drive up productivity and lower costs.  Take a proactively balanced approach to maximizing investment without penalizing the business by trying to wring every last ounce of value out of installed technology.
  7. Making Due With What You’ve Got:  “To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” goes the adage.  That is, the tool gets used for inappropriate and often damaging results.  The same is true for technology.  SMBs tend to try and use one technology tool for another task that it isn’t designed for.  Or, they’ll try to adapt technology that they have for a use that is almost impossible to achieve.  Stop attempting to repurpose technology for tasks or uses it wasn’t designed for and drive the business forward by using the right tool for the job, every time.
  8. Keeping IT “In House”:  As enticing as this option would seem to be, it is fraught with peril.  Unless your business is IT, your business needs and financial well being is better served by removing IT from your business and outsourcing to experts.  Options are everywhere and associated costs much lower than keeping IT ‘in house.’
  9. Listening too Hard to the Sales Pitch:  The technology salesperson wants you to buy their product or service.  They’re generally going to work as hard as they can to separate you from your money.  This isn’t a bad thing, provided that you’re able to validate claims and talk with other, similar businesses to understand cost, disruption, and benefit.  Look past the website, brochure, and sales pitch.  Dig into the proposed solutions, talk with others that currently use the solution, and force the salesperson to connect their technology to your exact needs.
  10. Casual Commitment to Technology:  SMB leaders carry many responsibilities within the business, all taking time and effort.  When technology evaluation, decisions, implementation, and rollout is required, the typical SMB leader will participate in the evaluation and decision, and leave the rest up to others to complete.  The savvy SMB leader will remain committed to the process and achievement of business benefits through careful application of technology every step of the way – driving accountability, cost awareness, user acceptance, and the greatest return on investment.


By NextCorp, Ltd., Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner for Texas

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