28/03/2011

By John Antunes, Director of SME and Channels, SAP UKI

Over the past thirty years, as technology has evolved and as new technologies have emerged, access to first-class business technology has no longer become simply the preserve of the elite, very large companies. Nowadays businesses of all sizes can and should have access to enterprise-class technology — and this includes start-ups.

The start-up of today could be the Coca-Cola of tomorrow, so it is important for fast growing small businesses to lay solid foundations. As a start-up, choosing the right business software is a very important task and it can often be the first foray into business technology — a move away from familiar spreadsheets and paper. So it is important to understand what factors are going to be critical to long-term success:

• Functionality — firstly the technology needs to address all the current business needs

• Cost — there is no point in paying for features or functions that are not yet required. In addition, paying for what is needed or ‘consumed’ is critical

• Usability — the ultimate objective of business technology is to make employees lives easier and to free up time that was once tied up in processes or paper-based systems. But if the technology is not easy to use, then adoption of the software will simply not occur and employees will simply not use it

• Scalability — technology needs to be chosen with both short and long term objectives in mind. It needs to capture the current needs as well as also having the capability to adapt and grow with the business

There are a number of business software options open to start-ups, everything from an on-premise technology suite that can cover the majority of business processes to a hosted cloud solution to look after one or more areas of the business and processes. However, of the three factors mentioned previously, scalability is perhaps the key for fast growing companies.

Technology is a major investment for start-ups and fast growing small companies, so they need to know that the technology they choose will be able to grow with them. For start-ups, selecting technology that is scalable, that will allow them to add users as the business expands and take on additional functionality is key to supporting future business development and growth. It also guards against the issue of having to replace the system within a relatively short period of time. One customer I spoke with, Modwenna Rees-Mogg of AngelNews a fast growing start-up news service for the investment market, said:

“We didn’t have a legacy system but we needed a solution that can grow with us and that we don’t have to change even when we get to over 100 employees.”

This sentiment echoes what start-ups are all about — growth. As such, any technology a fast growing start-up business chooses needs to be an enabler of and not a barrier to growth, and needs to be cost effective to meet the current business requirements. With the evolution of existing SME technology and the potential of new technologies, such as the Cloud, opening up the options to technology, the possibilities are almost endless. As we move out of recession this is an exciting time to be a start-up business and now is the time for those start-ups to aspire to better business technology that will support their fast growth strategies and allow them to start small, but think big.