Seven things your network must have.
Small and medium businesses tend to use information technology for what they perceive as being absolute necessities. That’s not a bad approach but it can cause you to miss opportunities to grow your business and save money. Without a budget that will support a chief technology office or experienced director of I.T. how do you know what you really need? We’re here to help!
1. A reliable backup of your data
While it may seem obvious to most of the small and medium businesses we visit this is just not the case. Just having a tape drive and backup software is not enough. You should test your backup on at least a monthly basis. It doesn’t need to be a complete restore all of the time, just pick out a few files and see if your I.T. staff can restore them. If you use outside consultants it’s worth the money to have them come in and test your backup on a quarterly basis. It shouldn’t take more than two or three hours and you’ll sleep better.
2. Sales automation software
Not only does it allow your sales people to stay on top of potential leads, it helps you to stay on top of your sales people. For the SMB market there are dozens of applications that you can run locally on your network or you can use one of the on-line providers like salesforce.com.
3. A decent web site
It really doesn’t matter if your business cuts grass or makes transmissions for tractors you should have a website. And don’t let the secretary’s sixteen year old son do it, get it done right. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Sites like aliger.com have hundreds of templates specific to just about any business. They look great and they’re easy to use.
4. Accounting software
Ok this is pretty much a no-brainer for any medium sized business and most small businesses. But even the really small businesses will benefit greatly from having an accounting package. QuickBooks is the old standard and still one of the best around. Your accountant will appreciate it too.
5. Computers less than three years old.
I know it may be running just fine but with the cost of new computers well below $1000 and the speed increases over the last few years you can’t cost justify keeping around an old computer.
6. A document management process
This doesn’t have to be a software application that costs thousands of dollars. But you should have a standard process for keeping critical or often used company documents in any easy to access location on your computer or preferably file server. It’s one of the easiest ways there is to boost productivity and the bottom line. How many times have you spend searching for that old proposal to use as a template?
7. ERP Software
ERP is an acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning. What that really means is anybodies guess. For our purposes we’re going to define it as software that is specific to your business and helps you to create and deliver your product or service. The reality of the situation is that it can be inventory management software, or a spreadsheet that shows the number of units shipped, or lawns cut. Be prepared to customize anything you buy off the shelf because it can be an aggravating process. But when you have it the amount of data available to you makes planning for the future a whole lot easier.