May 1, 2018 Stewart Marshall

5 Principles of IT for SMEs – #3 – Simplify

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 third of these.


Now that your Foundation is solid and your team has the all Assistance that it needs to get the job done, you need to start looking at what it is that your employees are actually doing.

They are of course busy, slaving away doing whatever it is that they do, but the question that needs to be asked is, what precisely is that?

So, when looking to Simplify, you need to find the myriad of activities that ensure that a business remains upright and ask whether each and every one is necessary, efficient, valuable, best practice and so on.

3 Steps

It may see somewhat counter intuitive to go through this streamlining process after taking time to ensure that your team has the Assistance that it needs, but there is of course a rationale behind this.

During the Assistance phase, the aim was to ensure that it was possible for your team to get things done. It was all about getting from end to end. Simplify builds on this base to make sure that they can repeatedly complete tasks and get the same results, and that they can do them efficiently, without wasting their or other people’s time on superfluous activities.

This approach can be easily summed up with 3 simple steps.

  1. Do it once
  2. Do it again
  3. Do it well

Silver Bullets

When looking for inefficiencies in a business, it’s all too easy to get caught up in a hunt for a silver bullet; that one change that will suddenly make your team happy, and your customers falling over themselves to buy your products.

Sadly, reality is rarely like that, and the truth is that most businesses, while perhaps not actually dying from the corporate equivalent of a thousand cuts, are most certainly suffering. Their many little inefficiencies add up to one very large one and this may well result in the need for additional staff or delays in order processing or poor customer service or…

So rather than one change making a huge difference, a series of relatively minor incremental adjustments will be found that will help individual staff complete their activities in a more efficient manner, leaving them available for additional revenue raising tasks.

Changes might be as simple as properly documenting an end of month procedure, or taking a “production” spreadsheet that requires hours of work each month and coding a solution to do it automatically. It may be ensuring that staff are properly trained in the use of a tool or ensuring that systems are available for remote workers. It may be the order in which data is presented on a warehouse picking list, or a change to how customer data is presented to make it easier for customer facing staff to communicate effectively.

Business Activities

It’s also an opportunity to look at some generic activities that are not specifically related to individual team members but can grossly affect the business, such as backup and disaster recovery policies.

Both of these are essential, and everyone does them, or at least they should. But bad working practices, such as not storing resources on networked drives or in document management systems, often means that the risk of losing something is greatly increased. Over reliance on replication to ad hoc cloud storage such as Dropbox can have a similar effect too.


Simplifying your IT based activities really has little to do with computers. It is as ever, all about the people and how they do what they do. It’s about understanding likely eventualities and having plans in place to deal with them. It’s about making your systems and processes usable and repeatable so that you can reduce you reliance on core staff and have provisions in place to deal with interruptions, expected or otherwise.

It’s all about keeping it simple.

Today’s Top Takeaway

Do it once. Do it again. Do it well

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