May 23 2012

Small Business IT Advice: Keep It In Its Place

There’s a lot of IT advice out there for small businesses, but despite the emphasis that’s placed on computers and computer systems, there is still one trap many small businesses fall into. They simply don’t place appropriate emphasis on the importance of IT. It is often relegated to a place of obscurity as simply a “supporting” service.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of IT from a business perspective, especially in today’s world. IT touches every other area of business. Human resources professionals use it to maintain critical employee information. Finance uses it to keep accounting records and make and receive payment for services. Salespeople rely on it to make presentations and place product orders. Operations managers depend on it to keep production lines running efficiently. And all employees typically utilize it for e-mail communications and internet-based resources.

With IT serving a central role for so many critical business functions, small businesses need to make sure they don’t skimp on the budget, resources and time devoted to it.

Every company, no matter its size, should have a specific amount allocated annually for IT expenses. It’s inevitable that equipment will fail, upgrades will be required or additional needs will arise during any 12-month period. And when those situations occur, it’s not good practice to pull money from other areas of a company’s budget to cover the costs. IT should be counted important enough in the scope of any small business to warrant a line item of its own in the annual budget. Planning ahead financially will help ensure IT needs can be fulfilled without question when they arise.

Non-monetary resources are equally important for small business IT systems. Some small businesses choose to staff one or more IT experts to support and maintain their systems, but qualified technology professionals can come at a high cost. A more affordable alternative may be to contract IT support services with a reputable third party. Small businesses should weigh their options carefully before deciding which alternative best suits their business plans.

Lastly, the investment of time required for IT activities presents challenges for many small businesses. Getting the right systems in place and maintaining them to ensure operations continue smoothly requires careful planning, and it can take more time away from other business activities than one might think. Small businesses must commit up front the time needed for maintaining IT infrastructure or be willing to hire someone who has the necessary skills and time to do so.

IT is critical to nearly every business in today’s world. Savvy small businesses will be most successful when they place appropriate emphasis on IT services, and that means IT needs must not be underestimated. Once a small business strikes the right balance, not only will IT services thrive but other business goals will be more successful as well.

Daniel Clarke is the Director of Marketing for Dataprise, an IT services company that provides network support, 24/7 IT support and IT consulting for growing businesses. For more information, visit the Dataprise Washington, DC website.

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