Growing a business is no easy task. Especially when you consider that around 90 percent of startups eventually fail. The road to success is fraught with hiccups, headaches, and challenges, and IT (or lack thereof) is frequently the obstacle that stands in the way of growing your business to its full potential. Here are three of the most common IT challenges that can stop revenue growth in its tracks:
We know that scaling IT can be expensive — especially for small businesses as they work through the growing pains of expansion. Many small businesses don’t have the capital to make huge IT investments, but they need to build out their systems and networks in order to be able to take on more customers and partners. As a result, many fail to reach their true growth potential.
However, with the adoption of cloud-based technologies, even small businesses can experience big IT capabilities. These applications and solutions allow small companies to leverage the benefits of the latest technologies and applications on a pay-as-you-go basis. This drastically reduces the capital expenditures formerly earmarked for infrastructure (both hardware and software), which greatly helps cash flow.
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the standardized practice and format for sharing information electronically between companies. Unfortunately, it’s also an archaic and insanely complex relic of the 1970s. It’s a difficult and time consuming process that can take weeks and even months to complete as EDI specialists determine data mapping rules and test data transformation rules. The all-in costs result in thousands of dollars per month walking out the door—something that’s not feasible for many growing companies.
EDI costs don’t go away once your company gets bigger, either. The other day, an IT manager at a large packaging company told me that they spend as much as $1 million dollars a year on EDI...not the software or the transactions themselves, but on the consultants that come with the ongoing maintenance, customization, and upkeep.
Okay, back to the main point. As we know, companies need to be able to share data with customers, vendors, and suppliers in order to grow. If you want to sell your wares to big-box retailers but can’t connect to their systems to send shipping notices and invoices, you’re pretty much dead in the water. As such, many businesses are turning to cloud-based alternatives that provide fully configured connections and can perform integration in a fraction of the time.
With so many breaches and hacks making headlines, companies are more paranoid than ever before about protecting themselves...which means putting greater scrutiny on those they are doing business with. After all, Target was breached through a vendor of theirs, Fazio Mechanical Services. Hackers sent employees at Fazio a phishing email, through which they were able to gain credentials and access into Target’s systems.
What can small companies do to conquer this growth obstacle? Take security seriously. Invest in employee training to establish strong internal security practices, because employees are frequently the weakest link in any company’s cyber security. The good news here is, if your company is small, you by definition don’t have a lot of employees to train. Other things you can do include hiring a third party to perform a risk assessment for you — if you’re on a budget, you can most likely learn what you need to from a vendor’s pre-sales workshop (which is usually free). Use their recommendations to adjust your security practices. The cloud can help in the security arena, too, believe it or not. Often times, cloud services providers have better security than individual companies — they have to address it for ALL of their “tenants,” after all. Most cloud services providers out there are putting themselves through the ringer gaining security certifications — all to prove themselves worthy of your business. Small businesses who can’t guarantee their own data centers and infrastructure would be able to pass those exhaustive audits would do well to consider moving to the cloud.
Are there any other areas or challenges you have experienced that can stop a company from growing? Let us know, we’d love to hear your take.