Information technology touches every aspect of your business. As a business owner, it’s important that you understand the opportunities presented by IT as well as the risks. The following questions are designed to get you thinking about things that are crucial to your business yet are often overlooked.
1. Are We Learning About and Implementing Technologies That Will Maintain and Build Our Competitive Advantage?
Technology provides tools to make your people more efficient and more effective. If your competitors are finding ways to use these tools and you’re not, you’ll quickly find yourself losing ground to them. Are you keeping pace with your competitors? Does their technology make them a lower cost operator? Are they able to service their customers better?
2. Are Our Systems Designed To Provide The Uptime That Our Business Requires?
When your employees and customers need access to your systems, it must be available to them. When your systems are on the fritz, it’s bad for employee morale and makes for a lousy experience for your customers. Have you asked your employees if technical problems are stressing them out or hindering their ability to service your clients?
3. Are We Inadvertently Exposing Our Company To Risks By Not Complying With All Laws and Regulations?
What you don’t know about compliance and regulation will hurt you. Are there laws and regulations that apply to your business? There probably are. What are the consequences for violating them? If you haven’t asked yourself these questions, there is no way to know for sure. Ignorance is no defense, so make sure you are informed and take appropriate action immediately.
4. Is Our Sensitive Data Secure?
Do you have information that you wouldn’t want to fall into the hands of your competitors? Believe it or not, the biggest security threat you face is from people that work for you or vendors that have access to your systems. Do you protect your trade secrets, formulas, recipes, salary data, financial information, tax returns, etc. from prying eyes? If any of this information got into the wrong hands, what impact would this have on your business?
5. If Our Office Was Destroyed By A Fire, How Long Would It Take To Recover Our Data and Get Our Systems Up and Running?
Having your data backed up offsite is critical, and hopefully, you’re already doing this. Backing up is important but how you are backing up may make the difference between your business surviving or failing. All backups are not created equal. What you need to understand about your backup is how the recovery process works. How long will it take to get your business up and running? Don’t make the mistake of thinking your customers will wait for you to get back on your feet. They won’t. Losing even a day or two of business can be the crucial difference that causes a customer to seek out a different supplier and opens up the possibility that they may switch to a competitor.
6. Are Our Employees Taking Advantage of the Technology They Already Have?
Your employees will always find a way to accomplish their tasks. Once they do, they usually stick with what they know. In many cases, there may be a better way of doing these tasks. That’s why an outsiders perspective can help you find ways to use technology to improve efficiency. Do you have a strategy in place to make sure this optimization process is happening?
7. Are You Aware of the Hidden Costs of Supporting Your IT internally?
IT requires maintenance, implementation, and support. All of this consumes time. For many small businesses, these tasks fall onto the business owner or a key staff member. Do the math, take your salary, payroll taxes, and benefits and multiply that by the percentage of your time you spend dealing with IT. Chances are that number is many times larger than what an outside vendor would charge. And that doesn’t even account for the lost time not working on your business. Is your time better spent working on IT or working on your business?
When you fully harness the technology that is available and protect and maintain those systems, they become an incredible boost to productivity. However, you can’t let your business become a victim of the pitfalls that accompany those opportunities. Now that you have answered these questions, how do you feel? Are you confident or worried?