For SMEs, getting to grips with your IT solutions at the same time as getting your new venture off the ground can be a real challenge. It’s a dilemma that faces thousands of businesses each year but there are a number of straightforward things you can do to find the best solution for your business’s technology requirements.
Examine Your Business IT Needs
The first step is to think about your business requirements and list every task you need your IT to perform. Then set an IT budget and evaluate the various options that fit these criteria. Most start-ups and Small & Midsize Businesses (SMBs) don’t need sophisticated IT – normally a mid-range personal computer or laptop is enough for performing most business tasks.
It is vital to consider security when choosing and setting up your IT system. Protect your business from Internet threats by having a firewall installed and use a cloud service to back up your data. One malicious attack could paralyse your business operations and be disastrous for your company’s wellbeing.
It is definitely worth thinking about the best IT hosting model for your business. More and more small businesses are turning away from self-hosted systems and are now choosing cloud over desktop software. Subscription based cloud services offer more flexibility as there are no upfront costs and you pay on a monthly basis.
Finally, evaluate IT outsourcing as an option for your business. It can be cost-effective for small businesses to have IT support provided by a Managed Services provider, especially those who do not have the in-house IT knowledge or resources to perform the task properly.
Choose the Right IT Support Partner
Having produced a short list of what your business needs it is time to undertake a proper research and evaluation exercise to compare potential software solutions and vendors. Research a vendor’s profile to confirm their expertise and history – check whether they have a solid track record in developing solutions for your sector and if they are an accredited supplier. Always ask for references and contact those provided by the vendor – the more the merrier.
Software by its very nature is ever developing, so you need to test a supplier’s knowledge of the latest technology (such as cloud and mobile technology) to see if it can demonstrate experience and know how to fully support your business. Credible vendors should be able to provide you with timely, knowledgeable answers – if that isn’t the case it should ring alarm bells. However, don’t rush the process – haste can often lead to a poor decision.
Key benefits you should look for from an IT provider include full configuration of the business solution, appropriate training for your team and ongoing support to overcome any problems. The right IT support partner will ensure everything is in place, fully tailored to your business’ needs and your users are completely up to speed with the new systems as soon as they go live.
Avoid Expensive Mistakes
Many years of business IT experience have shown the common stumbling blocks that tend to catch businesses out when it comes to finding the right solution for their needs. As an expert IT provider, we take a great interest in the pain points we solve for our customers and the feedback we get from those seeking our assistance is particularly interesting.
Many businesses have said they have felt trapped by the original software they had bought, often a back-office finance or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system that could not scale up or integrate with other systems like CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Historically these businesses had been frustrated by the lack of integrated tailored solutions available, at the right price in the marketplace for SMBs.
Our findings largely tally with those of Software Advice’s; whose survey shows that among buyers currently using ERP systems, 24% cite lack of support and 19 % cite cost as their primary reasons for wanting to switch to a new system.
Without the aid of a crystal ball it can be hard to predict just what needs your business will have from its IT in the future. However, by purchasing easily integrated and upgradable solutions from a knowledgeable expert installation and support provider will always offers the best chance of avoiding significant future issues.
Choosing the Right Technology
Every business has its own individual needs, so inevitably the perfect solutions will vary too. For some businesses, a simple ‘off the shelf’ solution may suffice, but for many companies the specific needs of their sector and clients will require something more tailored.
The other extreme is fully bespoke software – but having it designed especially for your company can be a highly expensive route (especially for a fledgling SMB) and of course there may be doubts over compatibility with the IT systems of partners and suppliers.
The ideal solution is one which is highly affordable, scalable and uses tried and trusted underpinnings from a big provider such as Microsoft, but can also be adapted to perfectly meet the specific everyday demands of your business.
Equally, ensuring you have a highly reliable solution with cloud hosted back-up (for full disaster recovery) and full user management and security updates is essential. No SMB can survive without its crucial IT systems in the event of an unforeseen disaster or emergency.
Business Solutions for Fast Track Growth
For most SMBs, an integrated solutions and services package that takes the hassle and headache out of buying, setting up and deploying a new business system is the perfect answer. An inexpensive solution that provides an SMB with all the tools it needs to market its business, capture contact details and sales leads, track orders and invoice customers from day one will make all the difference.
A fully integrated system will also give your company’s management team a full and true reflection of the state of play at any time – something which is invaluable in a fast moving and evolving business climate. Being able to glean in-depth information from the CRM and finance systems together provides a highly accurate view of exactly how your sales and marketing initiatives are behaving, allowing you to fine tune anything that needs addressing.
Businesses looking for a low cost but scalable solution that can be quickly adopted and deployed, may be interested in Advantage’s new FastTrack Business Suite which provide the tools a SMB needs for customer engagement, sales & marketing, business insight and finance management. It includes pre-configured dashboards, reports and work processes that can be personalised to a business, as well as training and support, and can be up and running in less than four weeks. You can also add additional software functionality like Procurement, Expense Management, Human Resource Management etc. or IT support services from an a la carte menu of options to suit your business as it grows.
Expert Advice on Business IT
The expert team at Advantage Business Solutions has 17 years’ experience in providing the best advice and solutions in business IT for SMBs and start-up companies.
To learn more about Advantage’s FastTrack solutions for growing businesses, give us a call on 0203 004 4600 – our experts would be delighted to talk to you and provide a tailored demonstration. Alternatively, visit http://www.advantage.co.uk/business-solutions/fasttrack-solutions/.
About the Author – Mark Howe
Mark Howe is the Managing Director of Advantage Business Systems Ltd and has over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry working with small-medium sized and enterprise clients, with a consultative approach to better deliver appropriate, scalable and cost reducing business solutions. He’s been working with Microsoft Dynamics solutions and providing these to a range of industries including manufacturing, distribution, retail, professional services and finance.
About Advantage Business Systems Ltd
Advantage Business Systems is a leading Microsoft Gold partner with over 17 years’ experience. Advantage provides ERP, BI, CRM, and IT support services to businesses throughout the UK. Advantage specialise in consultancy, implementation and support of Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and third party Business Intelligence systems.
About FastTrack Business Suite
Advantage’s new FastTrack Business Suite provides small & midsize businesses (SMBs) with the tools they need to market their business, capture contact details and sales leads, track orders and invoice customers from day one. Starting at £20K it includes pre-configured dashboards, reports and work processes that can be personalised to a business.
• Full CRM for customer and prospect management
• Business Reporting directly from the CRM/Finance system in Excel
• Complete back office Finance solution
• Mid office system including executive dashboards; online version of Microsoft Office including Word, Excel and PowerPoint; file storage and sharing with 1 TB of data/user
• Cloud Hosting with full user management, security updates and back ups
• Integration software for your CRM and Finance software
• Configuration, Training & Support – everything in place, configured and your business users trained and the system live
For further information, please contact:
Lauren Austin, Advantage Business Systems
Tel: +44 (0)20 3004 4600