A trusted partner is key to addressing IT challenges faced by SMMEs

Information Technology (IT) is a critical enabler in today’s business world.

November 6, 2012

By Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT

Information Technology (IT) is a critical enabler in today’s business world. However, Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) face a unique set of challenges when it comes to keeping up with the technology that enables them to remain competitive, while working with limited resources and often very tight budgets. Small businesses need to ensure that their IT infrastructure supports their core operations, but is also cost effective. On top of this, having a full time IT department is often simply not feasible, so SMMEs often rely on outsourced IT service providers to resolve issues. Smaller businesses need technology that is fit for purpose and IT services on demand. A trusted IT outsource partner can help SMMEs to achieve this without breaking the bank, enabling them to operate with maximum efficiency in all areas.

One of the core challenges for SMMEs is a lack of understanding of technology and how it can be used to benefit the business. Technology is always changing, so keeping up with these changes can prove challenging and overwhelming for organisations whose core business is not technology oriented. There is also a certain stigma attached to technology, that it is expensive and a grudge purchase. However this is not necessarily the case. IT can in fact help businesses to become more efficient and as a result more profitable, which means that the right investment will pay for itself by improving business operations.

The key is to ensure that the right technology is purchased to meet organisational needs. However many outsourcing providers do not take the specific needs of a small business into account, preferring to sell technology that will gain them higher commission margins. Often these expensive solutions are more geared towards larger organisations and their needs and budgets. So while they will deliver the functionality promised, the full potential of the solution is not being utilised and is often not necessary, wasting precious budget on expensive technology that they do not need. IT needs to be fit for purpose to deliver the optimal balance of investment and return for the SMME. Using a streamlined, fit for purpose solution will ensure that SMMEs gain the benefits of a more efficient solution.

Another challenge is the support and maintenance of IT solutions. SMMEs typically do not have high level IT skills in-house, which means that this service needs to be outsourced. However, outsourced contracts where the business pays a fixed amount every month are often not cost effective, since SMMEs typically require IT services on an ad hoc, on demand basis. Any technology also needs to support emerging business trends, including mobility and the cloud. Mobile workforces are becoming increasingly common, and in order for these to be effective they need to be able to access their ‘office’ from wherever they happen to be working. This requires appropriate technology to be in place to enable this. Cloud solutions can also help to improve productivity, but again require appropriate technology, most importantly connectivity, to support this.

Addressing these challenges requires the services of a trusted outsource partner who understands the unique needs of the SMME, who has their finger on the pulse of changing technology, and who will be able to provide the right solution to meet the specific needs of the individual business. IT does not benefit from a one size fits all approach, which means that any outsource partner needs to build a relationship with customers to get a full understanding of their business and their needs. In today’s world IT is not simply about dropping boxes anymore, but about understanding an organisation’s business model and translating this into workable, appropriate technology solutions.

The outsourcing model delivers multiple benefits for the SMME, enabling them to take advantage of technology while focusing on their core business. However, not all outsourcers are created equal, and small businesses need to choose their partner carefully. Integrity and transparency are two key characteristics to look for, as well as a company that is up to date on technology and the trends in this market. Above all, small businesses should look for personalised service, and a partner who is able to take the time to understand their business and its needs. In this way, SMMEs can get the right combination of technology, service and cost effectiveness to carry their business into the future.