Today’s competitive world of business means that IT is indispensable. Over recent years, the processing power of computers has transformed the workplace immensely, from streamlined back offices to high-speed customer care. Similarly, the widespread take-up and use of smartphones has changed how customers browse and shop. As a result, successful modern organisations need to make sure their computing system is powerful enough to rival those of their competitors.
Why Business IT Support and Services Matter
Whether for bulk sales, timely support or developing innovative new products, the growth of computing has accelerated since the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Notable examples include online shopping, digital marketing, mobile devices, cloud computing and social networking for business. Even more important, then, that decision-makers have a good appreciation of IT support and systems. If your company is in the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) category with between ten and 150 employees, read on for some top tips on understanding workplace IT and staying in control.
Nowadays, almost all information is computerised – from creative prototypes and promotional campaigns to sales invoices, staff training and customer records. Consequently, looking after the electronic hardware, software and data part of your business ensures that you will also be taking care of a large proportion of the company itself. However, what is the best way to achieve this and pave the way to success? In most cases, a valuable starting point is to engage with suppliers, initiating dialogue with the most important first.
Speaking With Suppliers
It is imperative to have a clear understanding of what your company’s suppliers do. Whatever the industry – from farming to manufacturing and sales – having the right suppliers leads to overall satisfaction and effective business systems. Your supplier contacts should be willing and able to converse and float ideas with you. Ask them about what they do best, how they have helped other business to grow and any suggestions they might have for projects you have in mind. Sometimes, excellent ideas can come up this way.
Similarly, service contracts ought to remain under review – including renewal dates and terms. In particular, check to see if there are any unnecessary and obsolete services, renegotiating if necessary. Hidden expenses include finance, over-ambitious projects and office moves after restructuring or acquisitions, whereas obsolescence occurs gradually. All these areas should stay under control, with corrective action when necessary.
Maintaining Internal Communication
If the organisation has an IT manager, he or she needs to maintain communication with the chief financier. That way, senior members of the management team know what to expect and can plan accordingly. In particular, although a computing wish list may be desirable from a technical point of view, it also needs to be financially justifiable. Only when there is a good understanding between accountants and senior IT staff can the organisation reach the best decisions regarding approvals, priorities and postponements – or perhaps even cancellations.
Managing IT Staff
If your company has an IT team, have your IT manager meet each team member. Alternatively, you might opt to see them yourself. Ask what each person likes and dislikes about their job. Apart from gaining useful information, you will learn more about individual and overall organisational strengths and weaknesses.
Ask every staff member for ideas to improve how the department works and take the opportunity to consider ways in which individuals can continue their professional development. Together, these measures will mean members of staff feel valued and appreciated for the contribution they make. Consequently, retention should benefit over the long term.
Analysing Business Processes
Using a process-based flowchart, map out how your IT systems function and integrate. Used to good effect, this technique highlights whether things are working well – or if any improvements might be possible. The exercise could reveal opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce waste, improve operations and keep activity in alignment with organisational goals. If necessary, in larger and more complex business areas, it may be worth enlisting the help of a BPR (business process re-engineering) analyst or consultant.
Planning and Documentation
When there is more than one person responsible for your IT, it is advisable to have an operating manual. This document sets out the organisation’s computing function, as well as interactions with customers, suppliers and agencies. Additionally, it is a good idea to include a disaster recovery plan. Here, identify areas that are critical for continuity and ensure that solid backup arrangements are in place to enable continued working and reliable file recovery if problems occur.
Looking to the future, develop a six-month master plan for change, improvement and upgrades in line with goals. Share this plan between senior staff, all of whom can help to avoid pitfalls. Notably, in the drive to reduce costs, some leading organisations use IT outsourcing to boost efficiency. Managed IT support raises the level of available expertise while reducing potential problems and staff issues such as holiday cover and sickness.
In summary, companies that embrace innovation tend to benefit from increased sales, improved monitoring and better management. Timely customer support also leads to more repeat business and referrals. To achieve success, therefore, business managers and owners need to understand their IT systems and appreciate that proper IT support is vital.
If you have any queries about your company’s business IT, help is at hand throughout the UK. Based in Scotland, Onestop IT is a leading computer services company that concentrates on helping small to medium‐sized organisations gain access to enterprise technology and best practices at an affordable price. As specialists in customer care and process-driven managed IT support and services for growing organisations, Onestop will be delighted to assist. Their expert team also offers strategy and compliance solutions.