Each SME business has unique tech needs, here’s how you can use technology for yours.
All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
“The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It allows them to be creative, productive and to learn things that they didn’t think they could learn before. It is all about potential.”
These are the words of Steve Ballmer, long serving CEO of Microsoft. Has your business reached its potential via information technology (IT) yet?
As small businesses go through different stages of growth, their technology needs often become more complex and expensive. Making effective IT buying decisions is essential to remain competitive, yet many small to medium enterprises (SMEs) struggle with technology acquisitions.
Related: Technology continues to shape the future of retail
During a recent national campaign of training SMEs on becoming more technologically aware, we discovered that they apply little thought in their information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure planning and adoption. SMEs’ ICT needs are determined by:
- Their unique characteristics e.g. stage of lifecycle, age of the business owner
- The business model e.g. Business-to-Business or Business-to-Consumer
- The location of the business e.g. rural or urban
- The type of business e.g. manufacturer or retailer
- Sector of the business e.g. construction, tourism, etc.
The above confirms that each SME has unique ICT needs. There is currently a void in supporting these diverse needs among business development agencies – from ICT needs analysis to planning support. Sales pitches often leave SMEs investing in ICT solutions they do not need and cannot afford.
5 Steps to better use technology
- Be strategic in planning your technology infrastructure - ICT is a lever for reaching business goals and should be included in the business strategy.
- Be current - Analyse trends in ICT and remain abreast of new products and solutions. Don’t believe everything the salesman tells you - do product comparisons and ensure that the solution you opt for meets your needs.
- Budget for the most practical solution. People often pursue bargains and end up paying much more in the long run. Explore ICT rental options as opposed to outright purchases.
- Avoid the ‘fad’ trap – Chasing the latest ICT solution is a common reason for cashflow challenges in small businesses. Ensure that the business can afford what you opt for and that it offers a viable return on investment.
- Sharpen the saw– Acquire the necessary skills to absorb and optimally utilise the technology. In case of severe skills gaps, explore appointing staff who have the required ICT skills.
Related: Connect to your customers with mobile technology
“The training exposed me to various ICT products and solutions available in the market and how to use them. I have for example heard of Cloud storage, but didn’t know how it worked. It also opened my eyes to see how I can use technology to make my business more efficient, to save money and to reduce costs. Being an industrial engineer who teaches people to be efficient and productive, I will surely be more aloof and strategic in choosing the right technology for my business,” said Violet Lupuwana, MD of Chumile Consulting.