As a growing business you have servers, you have applications, you have databases.

They all have one thing in common, they all have dedicated user accounts and passwords for administration, configuration and management.

You choose to keep most of your tools on-line? (SaaS) There are still passwords.

Do you know where these passwords are stored?

Do you know if your IT vendor or supplier just created ‘password’ as the administrator password on your customer relationship application?

Is all of that critical information located  in one secured spot?

Or is it missing in action?

If your IT staff or supplier left you today?

Ask your self if you could find that information.

The SMB Takeaway

I know that seems like a lot of questions. But if you cannot answer them, it gets really ugly trying to get that information back

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Are you missing the technology driven boat?

As a general manager in a small to medium enterprise, take a brief minute and consider the steps and time required in your business to do tasks such as the following;

* The steps involved in your order to cash cycle

* The steps involved in your order to shipping cycle

Why?

In this post titled Real SMB IT: Company Size Is The Wrong Metric I stated that you cannot compare your IT spending simply based on your organization size. Two companies may have the same relative size, but have diametrically opposite requirements in IT sophistication.

To define technology sophistication? Put simply, this means; how dependent upon technology is your business?

In that post I stated that if you require less technology in your business, you cannot directly compare your IT spending simply based on the size (either in staffing or revenue) with a similar sized business that has higher technology requirements.

In that original post, I did give one warning, and that warning was simply that; there is one huge place this model will fail

And that place of failure?

That place of failure  is when you have started to miss the boat. It is when your competitors that historically had similar levels of IT sophistication, are investing in a way that they are beginning to eat your lunch.

And how do you know if you are missing the boat?

To borrow from comedian Jeff Foxworthy,

If their sales revenue per sales rep is twice yours simply because your sales tools consist of a shoebox with Index cards, you may be missing the IT Boat

If their on-time and correct  first time order delivery is 95% and yours is only 30%, you may be missing the IT Boat

If their aged receivables are pennies on the dollar over 90 days, and yours is 80% of sales over 120 days, you may be missing the IT Boat

The SMB Takeaway

If your competitors, have started to embrace technology to speed up the manual processes that can hinder the growth of  their business, but you still use index cards, blue line pads and the fax machine.

I’ll put my money on your competitors.

Definition: Sophistication

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SMB Business Executives, Please Return To Class!

Why do only 27% business leaders claim to feel ‘smart’ or informed about their corporate IT?

That statistic comes from a Harvard Business Review post by Susan Cramm titled; How IT-Smart Is Your Organization?

First, that number is much too low. As a manager in the small to medium enterprise do you consider your self ‘IT Smart’?

I will guess you feel the same way as those statistics, and together we absolutely need to get that number higher.

Do you know how much money you are spending on your business technology?

The referenced article is referencing large enterprises, I guarantee for most SME businesses your small business IT costs will still be one of your larger expenses.

And of the money that you currently spend, 71% may be doing very little for you.

Does this mean that that as a general manager you should be signing up for that computer science program at your local university?

No, not at all.

But I recommend that you understand at a relevant level of detail.

The SMB Takeaway

And the good part for you is that this executive class can start with just some basic questions.

The Teacher is in!

Photo Credit OntCopper via flickr

If your perfect beverage at Starbucks is a Grande nonfat no-foam latte, does that mean that it must be my perfect beverage too?

Would you consider that it is reasonable to attempt to define perfect by one individuals personal preferences?

Personally, I think we would agree that humans are a diverse species. What feels perfect for each and every one of us can come from cultural or  socio-economic backgrounds, along with any one of a dozen other reasons.

So we can understand that your perfect beverage at Starbucks will not be the same  as mine.

Perfection In Business TechnologyPerfection is in our experience

For general managers in the small to medium enterprise, I have argued many times in a left brain analytic mode that perfection is not a result you can expect in your business technology function.

Give me license to use that left brain term because I argued this concept with the math of Pareto’s law (the 80-20 rule) and various iterative processes.

The Other Brain

In this piece titled; Why Better Will Always Beat Perfection Tanveer Naseer has an excellent look at a different perspective of perfection;

..the definition of perfection is based not on empirical facts; instead, it’s a reflection of what we’d like to experience.

( Emphasis the authors)

The SMB Takeaway

In technology, if we can never even agree on what perfection is, at least we can agree on what can make it better!

As my Dad used to say; put that idea in your pipe and smoke it!

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Photo Credit Ethan Hein via flickr

You can reach out and touch me with technology, and why a digital thank you goes a long way.

If your e-mail in box is like mine, its gets overloaded with automated emails asking me to sign up, asking me to register, or simply telling me that there is a short term discount this week.

I have to admit I usually just hit the delete button.

If you have the customer data and email marketing software to blast out these spend money with me! emails, why can’t you use that tech to just say thank you!

As Mila D’Antonio at 1 to 1 Media states in this post titled; A Little Goes a Long Way

…Much to my surprise there was no survey attached and no offers for a discounted oil change or a tune-up, but rather a simple reminder of how that company values me.

The SMB Takeaway

If you are a marketing manager in a SMB, perhaps it is time for a chat with the IT side.

Improving customer satisfaction and loyalty can be as easy as the occasional thank you!

Disclosure, although not associated with any party in the above 1 to 1 article, my employer provides that type of customer retention service to a niche market.

Basic and documented processes in your organization make sure that tasks get done.

They ensure that the Who, the When and the How are all completed as expected.

Do your financial staff update A/R or A/P only if they choose? or maybe just when they choose?

Would you consider if, or maybe satisfactory in your general ledger or sales funnel?

I think not

The SMB Takeaway

If and Maybe aren’t appropriate in IT either.

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I grew up with two brothers on a small farm.  And yes, like all farms, there were always plenty of chores to be done, more chores than young kids wanted to do!

As simple as it sounds, one of those chores was just cutting the grass. Yup that good old pastime, mowing the lawn.

Cutting the grass on our farm was a little more work than the average suburban house. The lawn was in three huge sections,  (at least to childhood memories they were huge) two of these sections covered the front and side of the house, and a third that extended beyond the driveway and right to the road.

As part of our after school chores, we could usually count on getting one section cut per day, so every three days or so the entire lawn had been cut.

The Never Ending Job

While we would finish cutting the full lawn every three days or so,  this chore always seemed like a never ending job. Simply enough because by the time we finally finished the final section,  it was usually time to start all over again! A little bit of rain?  then we were pretty well guaranteed to have to start again.

And like that chore of cutting the lawn, managing and implementing business technology processes and tools is also a never ending task.

I know we would love to think that we can spend some amount of time and money to get a particular benefit, tool, or capability and then be able to forget about it for decades.

But that won’t happen.

You choose to implement a new tool or process, and  over a period of time you think you have beaten the learning curve and are comfortable the way things have  gone.

By that time, circumstances and business drivers have changed, and it is usually time to start over again.

Fundamentally business technology can always be improved, it can always be better. In fact I would argue that anything you have implemented, but have never revised is probably an obsolete silo that is sucking the life out of your organization.

I am sure you know that one, people call it; ‘The way we’ve always done it ’round here”

The SMB Takeaway

Yes. By the time you finish one thing,  you may start over.

It is an iterative process, you  don’t stand still. Bit by bit you improve.

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