Most SMEs have few, if any, IT technical staff on site, and most CEOs are not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to IT. While they might be quite handy with Excel, and may even be able to knock up a quick macro, an understanding of how best to apply technology to solve the issues of their business is something typically left to specialists, and all too often an afterthought.
Fortunately, and despite the incredible variety of organisations, you won’t be surprised to find that they share many similarities when it comes to their technological needs. Each is of course subtly different, so implementation details will vary, but there are patterns of requirements and behaviours that repeat across all industry sectors.
To help CEOs better understand their systems and the effect they have on their business, MarshallFloyd has developed the FASES methodology. This framework applies 5 key principles when reviewing IT assets.
They should provide a Foundation for your business and Assistance for your team. They should Simplify your activities, help you Engage with your customers and become a pillar of Strength over time.
Here’s a quick look at the first of these.
Unless you have the simplest of business models, the fact of the matter is that you’re almost certainly running a digital business. Whether you like it or not, and whatever you consider your core activity to be, the people whose wages you pay will be dependent on technology, directly or indirectly, to be able to do their job.
If you’re not convinced, get everyone to turn off their computer, shut down your website, and see how long you keep going.
So, now that we’re in agreement, you can understand why step one is Foundation.
What’s It All About?
Actually, let’s start with what it’s not about.
IT’S NOT ABOUT COMPUTERS!
OK, so they’re involved and they may get a mention or two, but the point is that you don’t need to be an IT geek to understand this stuff, any more than you need to be a mechanic to drive a car. They’re just tools that we use to do a job in exactly the same way that a fleet of delivery vehicles does its job.
So what is it about then?
Glad you asked. Foundation is about one simple idea. It’s about your imagination and what you want for your business. That’s it. Nothing more. Just that one simple statement.
Some of you will have just spotted the enormous great elephant that’s occupying your particular room, realised you’ve missed the blindingly obvious and now understand that you’re not actually that sure what you want: and there’s the rub.
Unless you know what you want, how can you possibly go out and get it?
Building a Foundation requires that you understand both where you are and where your business is heading so that your IT can enable it.
If you intend to double your turnover in the next 3 years, you’ll doubtless have thought about increased marketing exposure, staffing requirements, needing more office or manufacturing space, additional warehousing, vehicles, shops and so on. But can your systems cope with double the amount of data? Will your web storefront buckle under the strain of the increased demand?
If not, what’s your plan to ensure continuity?
And many of those extra hands are going to require keyboards and PCs. Networks and servers may need upgrading. Who are you going to buy all this stuff from and who’s going to keep it running smoothly?
If Only You’d Been Organised
3 years down the line, your business plans come to fruition and you have indeed doubled your turnover.
So what’s the plan now that you’re there?
Do you know who you sold to?
Did your profit increase?
Did your profit per person increase or are you working harder for your money?
If you’d thought about it 3 years ago, you might have taken the time to ensure that your systems recorded enough data about your prospects, customers and their interactions for you to be able to glean important market data about them. You might also have recorded some metrics so that you could assess the performance of your systems and team, perhaps get a sense of staff productivity and effectiveness.
Still, not to worry. Perhaps you can do it in 3 years time.
As I said, this is not about computers. They are just the tool, the means to the end. They facilitate the delivery of strategic business outcomes.
Building an IT Foundation demands that you know what you want from your business, and to be able to make the right decisions you need to know everything there is to know about your clients, your team, every transaction and every interaction.
However, thinking such as this may not come easily for many SME CEOs who often consider IT to be a drain on resources rather than a source of profit.
But come it must!
Why? Because knowledge is power, and guessing has been proven to lead to less than desirable results.
It’s 2018 and artificial intelligence is on the rise. Machine learning is all around us and while today the big end of town is the main beneficiary, the landscape will undoubtedly be different tomorrow and many wonderful opportunities will abound for those SMEs who’ve built a solid Foundation and recorded as much data as they can, regardless of how trivial it may appear.
Today’s Top Takeaway
Review your IT regularly. You can only plan a journey if you know where you’re starting.
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