Does your business IT system work the way it should? Is it reliable, efficient and a joy to work with? Are you confident that your managed IT support are doing everything they can to assist your business to utilise IT and technology to grow your business. If you answered no then you are probably wondering what you need to do this year to ensure your business IT is able to support and grow your business.
Why should you plan your business IT?
Let’s face it, planning your business IT for the next year is probably not the most exciting section in your business plan. As a small business with 5, 10, 20 maybe even 50 staff you do not have in-house IT support so “develop our business IT” is another item on your very long checklist.
Before we get down to some specific, actionable tasks, why do you need to look at your IT systems on a regular basis? I guess the easiest analogy is to think of your business IT like you would your car. You don’t actually need to service it, you could just run it until it breaks down. True, you won’t be getting the best performance, you are probably breaking a few laws (GDPR data) and your staff are probably not going to treat it with much respect, but it would work, well sort
What does a good business IT system look like?
Keeping with the car analogy, let’s say your regular day involves a school run, a drive to the office and a couple of client calls involving a total 1 hour of town driving. The simple truth is you do not need the latest supercar. You need a car that is reliable, has good enough performance and of course it needs to be safe and secure.
Business IT is exactly the same – the latest tech costing £1000s per device is perfect if you are running complex CAD software but as a general IT user it is not needed. If it is not about expensive computers then what exactly is IT planning about?
1. Reliable IT systems
Having a reliable IT system is probably the most important. How can your business function, let alone grow, if your IT falls over every day or every week?
If your kit is under 4 years old and it is unreliable then there is a high probability that it has not been maintained properly. The best way to maintain a reliable IT system is to get it proactively maintained on a monthly basis.
What sort of things happen as part of a maintenance schedule?
- Installation of security patches
- Updating drivers
- Updating software such as browsers
- Checking hard drive
- Cleaning temporary files
See our article on proactive maintenance
2. Business IT Security
Over the last 2 years cybersecurity has become a headache for businesses. As demands on IT have increased with working from home so the hackers have ensured they have benefited from the decreased security.
Cybersecurity should, 100% be a part of your business IT plan. If you think your business is too small to worry about IT security, then think again. Most hacking is automated so there is no logic around the attack and the one certainty for the next year is that unprotected systems will be compromised.
As a minimum ensure your business IT is secure. A great starting point is to read about Cyber Essentials which is a government backed scheme helping businesses to protect themselves. By getting basic cybersecurity in place within your business you are less likely to become a target for hackers.
3. Efficient IT system
There are so many areas in which your business IT could improve it efficiency and save valuable time and money. The best place to start is to ask staff what frustrates them most. Staff that use the system daily will be able to tell you what takes time, what is frustrating and what doesn’t work. Sometimes simple tweaks to a system can deliver major gains in terms of efficiency.
Easy efficiency gains include
- Are your staff using multiple programs but only one screen? If so they spend all day clicking between programs and I guarantee this is costing your business money. Using 2 or more screens will pay for itself in weeks.
- Storing files in the cloud rather than using a VPN. There may be great reasons you are using a VPN within your business, but I have seen it used for simple file sharing which is just crazy. Modern cloud storage allows security of data as part of the setup and this should be part of the discussion you have with your managed IT support company.
- Get a report on your IT equipment – if it is slow upgrade it, if it is old and slow replace it. Managed IT support is about proactive actions. If you are not having conversations about the suitability of your business IT then you need to ask why.
4. Disaster planning
Disaster planning is more than taking a backup of your data, although it can be argued that even this would be a good start. I am always surprised how many businesses think they have a backup but never test it. We have taken over the IT for hundreds of companies and have seen backups that haven’t been running for the months, backups missing essential data and the worst was a backup completely encrypted by hackers.
Planning for a disaster may not be your idea of a great time but it will help your business to recover more quickly and with less damage. The aim is to work out and document what would happen in different scenarios, what needs to occur as a response and who is responsible for each part.
For instance in the case of a ransomware attack, where are your backups, who restores them, who investigates how it occurred and prevents it happening again. What about communication with your clients and suppliers, how long will you be down, what should staff do whilst they cannot work.
5. How can technology assist you
New technology is released on a daily basis and most of it is fairly small, incremental improvements but occasionally there will be new tech that can help your business get a competitive advantage. One of the most exciting parts of my job is looking how technology can be used to improve businesses and once again I am usually surprised how little technology businesses use.
Examples of technology that you might add to your IT business plan this year include:
- VoIP telephony – the old copper-based systems are being turned off over the next couple of years and VoIP gives businesses so much more functionality.
- Mobile friendly websites – more of your customers and prospects are using phones and tablets. Make sure your website looks great on these devices.
- Chatbots – using basic artificial intelligence to answer basic questions in real-time is a great way to start the business AI journey.
- Automated CRM processes utilising basic AI to make decisions
- Virtual Reality is making its way into offices and there are specific areas of business that will benefit
- Augmented Reality, the next step in virtual reality allowing the real world to interact with the virtual one
Love your IT by adding a new section into your business plan
I hope that you have found at least one area of your IT that needs a little love this year. By spending some time thinking and planning you will allow technology to become a reliable and dependable part of your business.
As a managed IT service company we love business IT systems – in fact we love them so much that we are always happy to talk about them. If you would like 15 minutes to discuss your business IT plans then click the button below – it is free of charge and our only ask is that you arrive ready to discuss your IT plan
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