05/03/2012

By Kevin Peesker, General Manager, UK and Ireland For Small And Medium Business At Dell

IT is essential for growing a business, whatever the size. It directly affects everything from your ability to deliver new applications and adapt to changing consumer demands, to your brand perception and the productivity of your workforce.

Regardless of the sector your business is operating in — whether it’s retail, entertainment, or finance — a reliable and adaptable IT infrastructure ensues your business has the tools in place to stay ahead of the competition and evolve. It’s key to stay receptive to changing demands from consumers, and from within the market, to ensure the continuity of your business over the years to come. Having an IT infrastructure that’s flexible, scalable and enables quick responses to changing customer needs is a fundamental part of that.

Northern Ireland based Chain Reaction Cycles, the world’s largest online bike-store, is proof positive that getting your IT system right paves the way for business growth. Struggling with old servers that weren’t able to meet the demands of a rapidly growing business, the company needed to upgrade to a more scalable infrastructure to provide a range of crucial business applications, including email system and file storage.

Launching a new application used to mean having to buy and install an extra physical server. Since implementing a virtualised environment the company can launch a virtual host within ten minutes, meaning no downtime or customer waiting time. The speed and flexibility with which the company can introduce new customer services is something that will continue to drive its future growth.

Social media can help your business grow by enabling you to build on the values and personality that attracted your customer base in the first place. Whether your business prides itself on rapid customer service or the ability to listen to consumers, social media can help you build on these skills and continue to drive your success as a company.

A blog provides a great means of connecting with your readers and providing a unique voice that captures both your personal and business brand. Brief, dynamic posts provide an effective way of keeping customers up-to-date with new developments and they can be shared via other channels through which you engage with your customers.

Likewise, Twitter not only enables you to get your news out and connect with a network of millions, but it also helps you grow your business by allowing you to understand what people are talking about, to search for your brand, resolve customer issues and stay receptive to the views and evolving demands of your target audience.

Don’t underestimate the everyday technology. Tools such as laptops and smartphones have become essential for day-to-day efficiency and play a key role in a business’s growth. Robert Welch of small business smallcarBIGCITY says: "Like every modern business we could not survive without up-to-date technology” and Laura Feather, Office Manager at Forewind — a consortium of energy companies — finds laptops indispensible for the level of productivity needed for business momentum: “Working with lightweight machines with reliable wireless connectivity means personnel can work effectively from multiple locations. With stable connectivity and full mobility, employees have the tools to be highly productive and to work on-the-go.”

Employee satisfaction and productivity affects any business’ success. In fact, the ability to choose work devices is something behind recent statistics that reveal SMB employees are statistically happier with their working environment than workers at larger enterprises. Generally, SMB employees are happier with their working environments than their public sector and enterprise counterparts owing to factors such as having the option of choosing which technology to work with.

Thirty-nine percent of SMB workers can choose compared with only 21 percent at larger companies. By allowing workers increased freedom through practices like flexible working and device choice, SMBs will arguably increase motivation and, in turn, drive the productivity and creativity that will stimulate further innovation and growth.

Technology is undoubtedly a strong tool for business growth, but it’s important to remember that what serves one company well, may not suit the next. Ensure you use technology that’s tailored to your company’s particular needs, and optimised for your own business and customers. Getting advice and assistance on what’s right for you is a great starting point.

Organisations such as StartUpBritain hold tech events for start-ups while support networks and social media provide a great way of tapping into a network of millions to get ideas, find resources and speak directly with entrepreneurs making similar decisions.

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