Introduction to IT for Small Businesses
Not too long ago, people thought information technology (IT) and software were only for large enterprises with complicated internal systems. Many mom-and-pop shops still used traditional cash registers and spreadsheets to track payments and inventory.
However, IT for small business owners has significantly evolved and adopted the latest technological advancements. Now, even small companies can take advantage of new solutions to streamline their operations.
There is a common misconception that only large enterprises need automated tools. In reality, 85% of small businesses invest in software as a service (SaaS) solutions. Therefore, owners should understand what IT tools best suit the needs of their small businesses.
1. Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft Office encompasses a wide range of business tools, from presentation builders to recordkeeping and spreadsheets. These solutions give companies the means necessary to generate reports and organize information in a digital database. This way, small businesses can stop relying on manual bookkeeping and data exchange practices, such as faxes and snail-mail.
However, many people overlook the importance of Microsoft Outlook, their business email application. This tool not only facilitates messaging between employees but also has a calendar, task prioritizing, and document sharing features. By purchasing Microsoft Outlook, small businesses can standardize communication, scheduling, and document filing methods across their departments.
2. Cloud Storage
Physical filing cabinets are a thing of the past. Many small businesses have already ditched their traditional bookkeeping practices for cloud storage. With cloud storage, companies no longer have to store records on a physical hard drive or paper. Instead, this technology enables employees to save documents virtually, outside of their personal computer. In other words, employees can log in to any computer at any time access the information.
The most well-known example of cloud storage is Google Drive. As long as the user has an email address and an internet connection, they can create an account for free. Google offers numerous tools with every account, including.
- Gmail (email)
- Docs (documentation)
- Meet (virtual meetings)
- Sheets (spreadsheets)
- Slides (presentation builder)
With cloud storage, organizations do not have to worry about losing their data as a result of a system malfunction. The tool simply updates and uploads the newest version of the document with every change the user makes. This gives the business a recovery plan for emergencies and ensures they will receive the most up-to-date information.
3. Network Security
Studies show that small businesses make up 60% of all cybercrime victims. This calls for some serious security measures and precautions to mitigate external threats. By investing in network security, companies can protect all critical information, including.
- Customer information
- Financial documents
- Business files
- Third-party correspondence
Protecting network connections not only prevents data breaches and stolen information but also damage to the company's reputation. Customers only feel comfortable patronizing a business that protects their personal data. Therefore, owners should invest in antivirus software that protects against malware and hacks.
Hubworks is a provider that offers tools for every business need, such as.
- Zip Schedules (Employee scheduling)
- Zip Clock (Employee biometric time clock)
- Zip Inventory (Inventory management)
- Zip Ordering (Inventory Ordering)
- Zip Forecast (Demand forecasting)
- Plum POS (Point-of-sale)
With these tools, companies from every industry can automate their internal processes. Hubworks even has additional applications for restaurants so they can streamline customer orders, reduce food waste, and maintain compliance. With their system integrator, Any Connector, businesses can connect established software to improve data consistency and integrity.
Benefits of Having a Small Business IT Strategy
Having an IT strategy ensures a business has set objectives that each employee is striving for. Just by developing and launching an IT strategy, a small business can take advantage of several benefits.
Improve Employee Accountability
An adequate IT strategy clearly outlines the role of every position within the company. This includes each employee's responsibilities, expectations, and goals. However, some strategies even outline external parties, such as vendors and other partners.
By detailing this in the strategy, businesses can eliminate any confusion around worker expectations. Therefore, employees are held accountable for everything task they do or do not perform. Although some owners outsource services to develop the strategy, using in-house employees for this task can eliminate inaccuracies and confusion.
Eliminate Duplicates and Bottlenecks
After assigning roles, businesses need to conduct an internal audit to eliminate duplicate tasks and positions. Some companies even discover that they pay for multiple software that accomplishes the same thing. By removing duplicates, organizations can save money and improve efficiency.
Audits also provide the opportunity to locate and define bottlenecks. Bottlenecks are buildups that lagging systems create because they can't efficiently process the prior system's input. This delays all sequential processes, restricting output and productivity. By eliminating bottlenecks, businesses can significantly improve operational efficiency and scalability.
Control Cash Flow
An IT strategy should also strive to reduce operational costs in the long run. While the initial planning period may incur additional costs, it will eventually reduce unnecessary expenses. For example, businesses can implement management software to automate repetitive tasks, saving labor costs. Software tools also perform processes consistently each time, ensuring reliable results. This allows managers to accurately forecast cash flow to optimize budgets and resource allocation.
Enhance Competitive Advantage
Creating an annual IT strategy ensures that businesses do not fall behind the competition. The market is constantly changing and introducing new technologies that can streamline business tasks. Therefore, owners should review their practices to determine if new technological developments can enhance their productivity.