19/05/2015

By Adam Smith, MD, Rawnet

If you’re a small business or enterprise it’s unlikely you’ll have the ability to invest in systems which will radically change the way you conduct your business operations, due to the large investment they require. But, it is essential to achieving business success.

According to research recently carried out by technology company Node4, 79% of UK SMEs are experiencing frustrations with their existing IT infrastructure. Perhaps more alarmingly, the findings also revealed that 70% of UK SMEs would grind to a halt within half a day without critical IT infrastructure.

Identifying ways to transform your digital infrastructure, from your website and social media strategy to your internal IT systems, shouldn’t keep you awake at night. It also need not break the bank. Costs are always going to be high for quality service, so it’s important to identify ways you can make small changes which are highly scalable and give you a return on your investment – be that through streamlining process, all the way to more revenue.

A lot of SMEs start off as very small teams, working closely together without any real processes. This can build into bad habits and inefficient systems, which can then extrapolate across larger teams if a business ends up growing very quickly without a clear set of parameters. This causes huge inefficiencies, and can slow down the ambitions of your business.

So what do SMEs need to do to achieve digital scalability?

For starters, you need to ask yourself whether or not you have the ability to grow your business with your current systems. If you don’t, you then need to look at whether or not there are specific operations which would benefit from an automated solution. It’s then you need to establish systems which will provide you with greater clarity on specific operations. That may mean working with a third party, but you need to make sure the business is structured in the right way first, and understand how your aspirations and needs will change as you expand.

Far too often businesses don’t prepare for these changes in the right way and then come unstuck as they grow. Investment in the solutions which simplify business operations can fundamentally change a business and enhance its profitability, but don’t get too hung up on design. Whilst design is fundamental to success, businesses shouldn’t feel like they need to reinvent the wheel. Those that do may find that they overcomplicate the process which may result in excessive overspending on unnecessary systems, which do little to bolster growth.

Good IT solutions shouldn’t be noticeable and don’t need to be overly engineered for every edge case, as long as they fulfil their primary purpose. Off the shelf solutions can often seem like the perfect fit on the surface. The trouble is, as they haven’t been purposely designed in accordance with the specific requirements of the business adopting them, they often don’t provide the same level of scalability businesses expect, as systems which have been designed and built from scratch. It’s therefore important to make sure that whatever changes you make, compliment the business’ ambitions. The business transformation that this infrastructure brings to the organisation should enable rapid growth.

To do that successfully, you need to evaluate every single component of your current set-up so that you can understand what changes need to be made and how they can positively impact the bottom line from the moment they are implemented. Your staff will always claim to be busy, so identifying how you can improve efficiency across the business will naturally speed up productivity and improve morale. However, this is a constant process. As you introduce new systems your workforce will adapt to new parameters of working, which in turn will create new opportunities and challenges. Understanding these behaviours will ensure you are constantly evolving and looking at ways digital can positively influence your operational activity. Digital solutions should wherever possible, reduce man hours and allow your team to focus on activity which will generate a commercial benefit.

Scalability, which is sustainable, is all about problem solving. If you regularly adapt and adjust your systems as your grow and recognise how other changes will enhance your ability to grow you will transform your financial capability and instil a far more progressive and adaptable mind-set across the business. Digital, should be seen as an enabler for growth, but investment needs to be considered carefully and rolled out in a measured and controlled manner.

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