There are very few small businesses that are able to operate both effectively and profitably without using Information Technology (I.T.). I.T. is a business enabler and, if implemented and managed correctly, may add significantly to the success of a business. The challenge is generally not whether to adopt technology in a small business but rather how to make I.T. work for the business whilst reducing related expenditure and time required to work on or with the I.T. investment. Here are a few tips on how small business may get more from their I.T. spend:
- Unless you are tech savvy then get an I.T. specialist to assist you. Find an I.T. specialist who understands your business and comprehends that I.T. is there to serve the business.
- Have a clear business objective to achieve before making I.T. purchases. For example your business need may be to reduce expenditure; it may be taking you ages as well as costing a fortune to compile and send your financial records to your bookkeeper/accountant. Adopting accounting software (such as Attaché or M.Y.O.B.) may save you time and is likely to save you bookkeeper/accountant fees.
- Some Open Source and free software may save you money in the short term but may prove to be an ongoing nightmare. Open Office, for example, is a popular Open Source alternative to Microsoft Office and is free to download and use. The vast majority of organizations use Microsoft Office and Open Office and Microsoft Office are not fully compatible and have a different ‘look and feel’. The compatibility issues will cost you significant time and the ‘look and feel’ variances will limit productivity of your employees who are familiar with Microsoft Office. My advice is to pay the upfront cost for Microsoft Office unless you really are I.T. savvy and are prepared to spend time resolving compatibility issues.
- Contrary to the point as above, some Open Source and free software is excellent and is well worth using; PDFcreator is free to download and use and fulfils the needs of most people wanting to create Portable Document Format (PDF) files. Windows Live Mail is perfect for small businesses using Hotmail, Gmail or one of the other free email account services.
- Businesses making significant international telephone calls are more than likely to save significant expenditure through using an IP telephone service such as Skype. When investigating which IP Phone service to use then have an I.T. specialist explain the pros and cons of the various services as well as check that your needs will be met by the IP Phone service (again, the importance is to concentrate on the business requirement which is to save money on calls whilst maintaining call quality and availability).
- Printers and printing costs. Many small businesses waste significant money on printing without considering the cost over the life of the investment. For example, a small business printing 100 invoices a day may buy a $90 printer but the cost for cartridges every month is $300. It would have benefited this same business to spend $500 on a laser printer with $100 a month cartridge costs.
I.T. is an investment and the two primary considerations should be; the business requirements and the total cost over the life of the I.T. investment. Keep in mind also that I.T. should add to your business rather than distract from your core business.