The right IT systems are essential for business growth, says Jon Milward, Director of Managed and Support Services, Northdoor, but modern businesses still need to do more with their IT in order to stay competitive
Driving profitable growth is the top priority for every business leader. Whether the route to growth is organic or through mergers and acquisitions, IT will play a critical role in helping small to medium enterprises (SMEs) achieve their key business objectives.
IT should not just be seen as a tool that enables the day-to-day running of the business. As a matter of fact, IT can help a business grow in a number of key areas, such as developing new revenue streams, streamlining processes, increasing efficiency, and increasing cost competitiveness. Furthermore, IT can enable the creation of a crucial network between partners, clients, or even employees.
With increasing economic pressures in the form of tax increases, rising manufacturing costs and inflation, SMEs tend to focus their strategy on cost reduction, rather than investing in growth. Undoubtedly, in challenging economic times, companies need to achieve more with fewer resources. But what do businesses need to consider so they can advance from the survival mode (saving for now) to the growth mode (investing for the future)?
Building the foundation for growth
In order to determine whether you are getting the maximum value from your existing IT operation, you need to understand what your company’s key efficiency factors are, and how you can evaluate the performance of your IT against these controls. These efficiency factors can be the ability to deliver the services faster or cheaper, for example, or to reduce any service downtime.
There are few key criteria that you need to consider when it comes to evaluating these factors. As a starting point, it is essential that you look at whether you have automated all the processes within your business wherever all possible, and especially those that can help to reduce any manual tasks that lower workforce productivity.
By streamlining your business and production processes in this way, you can vastly reduce the cost of your products and services. After all, a business that has lower operating costs can normally translate these reduced costs into their business pricing strategy, and thus help to gain a more competitive edge in the marketplace.
You also need to evaluate how you are currently delivering and managing the IT services that are required to support the business. In some cases, you may want to consider outsourcing your IT infrastructure, as this approach can often help to reduce costs and also free up in-house resources that can be focusing more on business growth.
Investing in technology that gives you the competitive edge
Investing in new IT technologies can allow your business to develop and support important new business streams, which are vital for growth. The latest internet technology can be utilised to conduct business between buyers, sellers and other trading partners in the form of e-business.
In this way, IT can be used as a vehicle for the creation of high-value networks with business partners and clients that enhance communication and the exchange of knowledge. This network can allow you to outsource key business processes to your partners through a shared technology platform, which frees up in-house resources to concentrate on other business-critical areas.
New initiatives? Don’t let the costs spiral!
We’ve seen many large-scale IT projects that have gone sour or failed to deliver the desired results, even after millions pounds of investment. But how can businesses be sure that their new IT projects/investments deliver the desired outcome (and provide the enhanced capabilities that the company needs), without having the costs spiral out of control?
When planning any large scale IT project, you need to identify the desired business outcomes and benefits of implementing a project clearly, whilst also justifying the investment. There is no sense in implementing a costly and time-intensive project if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs involved.
These risks can mitigated, but only when you fully understand the IT elements and implications of the initiative, and if you are able to secure sufficient expertise and resources. It will also be essential to have an efficient and robust operation that is able to cope with / reduce any likely disruption during the implementation.
The benefits of outsourcing are evidenced
Without a doubt, efficiency in your IT infrastructure is a business imperative. If the costs involved with running your day-to-day IT operations are too high, you are likely to endanger your business growth by not investing in capabilities that will categorically put your business ahead of the game.
You will need to make sure that you have easy access to proven project management skills throughout this process; if you don’t, even (what seem like) simple IT projects can very quickly escalate out of control.
We have seen many successful stories of IT outsourcing and over the years, it has become a strategic and validated option for managing and delivering core business services. Utilised rightly, outsourcing can help you to reduce costs, improve service quality and gives you the agility, scalability and even the specialised knowledge that you need for growth.