Similar to larger organizations, small businesses perform business-related functions such as sales, operations, accounting, and finance. They must compete with the bigger companies around them, providing the same (if not better) level of customer service and support to keep their customers happy and returning. The difference is that they do it with a much smaller pool of money, time and talent.
While many leaders wear multiple hats, small businesses feel the pressure to try to do more with less, recognizing the role that technology plays in enabling them to be more effective with fewer resources. What often falls by the wayside is the ability to weigh the impact of technology to refresh equipment, keep up with technology innovations and proactively battle cyber threats.
Without a strategy for information technology, many SMBs suffer from obsolete technology, reduced productivity, and crippling security issues. And in the long run, this can be a lot worse than it sounds.
Limited Planning. Limited Results.
What if we told you, “technology will inevitably become obsolete?” You probably know that. Yet the first impulse of a small business with limited resources is to conserve money. As a result, a desktop or server that still works – turns on and runs applications – even after its projected end-of-life is probably not going to go away.
As equipment and software ages, manufacturers will decide not to support it anymore. That means that they will no longer issue patches, so it becomes impossible to add new features or fix vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. What’s worse are the severe dependency issues that arise from this situation. Let’s say that you have an application server that’s out of date. It may be still able to run applications, but the manufacturer isn’t issuing patches for the firmware. The applications that the server is running might not be out of date, but there’s a good chance that if their publisher releases patches for them, they will no longer be able to run on their out of date server.
As a result, one end-of-life server yields several out-of-date applications. If any applications happen to depend on the original applications, they will most likely go out-of-date in turn – even if their host servers are relatively new. It is estimated that 25% of business systems contain an average of 700 unpatched vulnerabilities. As a result, 14 million small businesses – half of all US small businesses in total – are vulnerable to hackers, and may have already been breached.
Even if you aren’t worried about vulnerabilities, the fact remains that out-of-date infrastructure will be slow, and lack features that up-to-date workplaces take for granted. This, in turn, will slow down your workers’ productivity, which will slow down their ability to respond to customer demands. This will inevitably accelerate customer churn and customer churn impacts the bottom line.
Why is strategic planning important?
Having a full-time in-house IT person on staff or working with a technology vendor probably means you have someone who is going to be responsible for site maintenance, hardware replacements, and upgrades, implementing and maintaining the VPN, and software updates. They’re going to be busy! The daily challenges of IT often overwhelm any one individual and in time, the once proactive IT becomes reactive to the business rather than strategic to the role technology should play in your business.
- The expertise of a group of technology providers who provide a broad view of the technology landscape and insights that come from having solved IT problems in other business environments. It’s unlikely that you will experience something an outsourced IT provider has not seen before.
- They also bring to the table the consultation services of a virtual CIO who can help you plan for the future and build a technology blueprint to keep pace with technology – helping you achieve greater internal efficiencies and a competitive advantage.
vCIO, what’s that?
The acronym “CIO” stands for Chief Information Officer. This is usually a job for the most senior person in an organization responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support the business goals. This role goes beyond just maintaining the daily running of technology to ensure your architecture and business needs are in alignment. In other words, every business, both large or small needs the guidance and expertise of a CIO to be able to plan and implement high-performing technology combined with the features that their workers need to excel – all while keeping inside the budget.
A Virtual CIO (vCIO) performs the same duty as a CIO without representing the expense of yet another full-time employee. This person plays a consultative role, providing your business with the roadmap to achieving a rich IT architecture-- one that’s specific to your needs.
How Does a Small Business Access a vCIO?
You might be thinking, “But wait, I am a small business. I can’t afford that.”
MicroTech Systems in Boise, ID is an example of an organization who provides vCIO services wrapped up in their managed IT offering. SMBs have the ability to access strategic IT planning through customized technology roadmap, putting their organization on a path where IT can drive business productivity and efficiency.
When you work with MicroTech Systems, we help SMBs in four unique areas:
- Define the useful life of your existing IT infrastructure
- Formulate an IT budget to ensure that your network infrastructure meets all your company’s needs even as your company evolves
- Ensures operational efficiencies
- Aligns your business with the rapid technology changes occurring around it
Even if you’re starting from a position where you don’t have any IT person in house, a vCIO will be able to give you an achievable roadmap to strategically leverage technology in your business. With this kind of guidance, your computers and servers won’t just sit there getting old. Rather, your technology will be able to keep you and your customers safe, increase your productivity, and earn an ROI. For more information about a vCIO and how you can benefit, request an IT Roadmap consultation.