One problem that small businesses face is the need to compete with other small businesses—and often mid-sized and large businesses—with limited resources. Unsurprisingly, this encourages underinvestment in small business IT infrastructure. Clients might take notice if a business’ office décor is shabby or if it’s delivery van is barely roadworthy, but they are far less likely to notice if the organisation is still running Windows 7 and making do with network speeds slower than the NBN roll-out.
Even the biggest, most successful small business is usually run by the person who owns it, and that person likely won’t be inclined to spend their own money on new tech unless they’re given compelling reasons to do so. Here are three reasons to do so.
1. It can provide a competitive edge
While a small business is unlikely to win a tech arms race with a multinational corporation, it’s incredible how little a smaller player has to do to gain an IT edge on similarly sized competitors. For example, a recent Telstra survey found that half of Australian small businesses don’t have a website. That same survey also found that nearly two-thirds of Australian customers wouldn’t consider buying from a small business if they couldn’t find information about it online.
With a bar that low, it’s reasonable to assume that if a small business has invested in a CRM, HR software, innovative payment methods, or chatbots, it can be considered a relatively innovative operation. These things are usually affordable and can result in cost savings, greater efficiency, increased reach, and more customers.
2. It can allow the owner to spend less time on grunt work
Show us a small business owner who doesn’t feel stretched thin, and we’ll show you one who has automated away as many administrative tasks as possible.
If the boss is sceptical about the competitive pressure to invest in up-to-date IT solutions, you can always present the prospect of downing tools at a reasonable hour. There are now technologies that will:
- Manage the books
- Recruit staffConnect apps (to avoid double-lifting as you switch from one to the other)
- Spell and grammar check business documents
- Make online advertising a breeze
- Manage passwords and fill out forms
- Take the stress out of social-media marketing
- Make email ping-pong around setting up appointments a thing of the past
These possibilities represent just a handful of the many options available in each category, and the time business owners can save by adopting just one or two of these automation tools can be life-changing. They can then devote that time to either working on high-value tasks or recharging their batteries.
3. It can lessen the chances of the business suffering reputational and financial damage
It’s understandable that many small business owners believe cybercriminals aren’t much interested in them—understandable, but not excusable. There are now in excess of one thousand cyber breaches every year in Australia. Many of these involve small businesses, and organisations in the health, finance, legal, accounting, education, and retail industries are disproportionately targeted.
Small businesses often underestimate the amount of data they have, its value, and the extent to which cybercriminals regard it as easy pickings. While most business owners recognize that data breaches are embarrassing, it appears as though many don’t understand how expensive they can be. Legal liability may remain as a grey area, but both national governments—not least Australia’s—and supranational entities such as the European Union are increasingly expecting businesses of all sizes to safeguard customer data. They are also threatening to fine those who make life easy for malicious actors. Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about sensitive personal data being made public, and a recent survey showed that 81 percent of respondents wanted greater control over their data.
Making a start
The thing about modernising small business IT infrastructure is that, apart from the associated costs, it’s all advantageous. Newer machines tend to work better and more quickly, and they’re typically more user-friendly than older ones. For instance, let’s say you manage to talk the boss into replacing that ancient printer wheezing along in the corner. If that new printer is an HP A3 machine, it will have best-in-class security as well as an intuitive control panel, a low cost per page, and modest overall operating costs due to its combined functionality and support packages.
Technology like the HP A3 levels the playing field between small businesses and their competitors—and even helps to close the gap between them and the giants in their respective industries. And with the advent of as-a-service sales models, smaller players now have access to the same IT solutions as larger firms.
All of this means that nimble Davids can leverage tech to gain some ground on complacent corporate Goliaths. More to the point, small business IT professional will be able to spend more time innovating for the future and less time putting out security fires or fretting about threats from beyond the firewall.