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Simplifying IT: Three steps every small business should take

The last thing any small business owner wants to deal with is IT problems. But sadly, they’re inevitable. Almost every business today operates a website or e-commerce storefront, and the fastest-growing enterprises depend on complex accounting software or resource management platforms. When things go south, sometimes there’s nobody to turn to but yourself—the business owner, employee, and IT team all rolled into one.

1. Hire professionals

This is obviously not ideal. Your precious time and energy should be spent growing the business and acquiring more customers, not slaving over software issues. Fortunately, there are some ways to overcome this. Here are three steps small business owners can take to improve IT operations and stop them from siphoning away their time, money, and sanity. 

Here’s the obvious fact: you can’t do everything yourself, even if you want to. When it comes to IT, consider building a small team with working knowledge of the mission-critical software and systems your business runs on. Say operations rely on a specific ERM software. You’ll need someone familiar with its inner code and idiosyncrasies. If your business runs through an app, get someone familiar with its programming language. If it’s an e-commerce platform, make sure PHP, Python, or Java is listed on your job posting. 

Ideally, you’ll want to appoint one or two part-time or remotely-based professionals who are proficient with specific software or systems but unfamiliar with the rest—and that’s okay! The idea is to secure the IT assets serving as the backbone of your operations first. Then, you can build upon this foundation by providing training to your small team or hiring freelance developers or specialists when problems become too much for your main team.

2) Give your team basic but powerful monitoring  

Ironically, technological complexity requires a technological solution like real-time monitoring. This is because a good monitoring solution—when it’s properly set up and configured—provides deep visibility into the health of your entire business network and tech stack. Using network logs and data, problems can be quickly identified, and emerging issues rapidly predicted and dealt with before they escalate. 

Some business owners might think monitoring software is costly and only for the bigger corporations, but this isn’t necessarily true. Leading software solutions vendors often have customised small business IT solutions, which include network monitoring along with things like IT management and security tools. They strike a balance between value and cost and are essential in providing you with visibility and control over your increasingly complex and intertwined business tech stack.

What can you do with this added visibility? For one, your IT team can identify areas where utilisation is nearing breaking points, implement forecasting to determine future demand, and procure additional resources or capacity as needed. These streamlines and removes the guesswork from IT procurement processes.

Additionally, powerful monitoring will prove critical to improving the quality of your customer service. You’ll be able to spot problems in your customer-facing platforms or applications before they cascade and frustrate customers. Giving your support employees access to monitoring platforms allows them to quickly identify the root of a customer’s problem and rapidly address it, raising customer satisfaction.

3) Formalise and document best practices  

Finally, your IT team should begin the process of documenting common and repetitive processes like device onboarding and user account creation. And don’t forget critical resources like code repositories and best practices for business-dependent applications and software, too. Having documentation for these vital IT processes curated and maintained consistently is key to rapidly scaling the efficiency and productivity of future IT hires and ensuring all employees follow the same process.

To help keep a lid on growing IT complexity, take some time to document business-related processes relying on technology. For instance, you should do the following:

  • Create onboarding training modules for all essential software, applications, and platforms your business uses
  • Build FAQs on your website to answer the most technical questions your employees or customers may have
  • Create guides on how to sign up and log in to third-party services. For example, this might include upskilling websites like Coursera or Udemy

Making the above self-help materials readily available to whoever needs them minimises the amount of non-tech-related “distractions” for your IT teams. This allows them to better focus their full attention, energy, and resources on keeping your business systems and network stable and problem-free. 

Business owners don’t have to implement the above suggestions all at once or even in a short time. Of course, implementing things like monitoring earlier on would benefit your business more down the line, but it’s not highly necessary. As with all things, consider what your operations need most right now, make plans, and execute them—just like you do every day to achieve business success. 

Read more: Don’t replace your computer fleet just yet

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Chrystal Taylor

Chrystal Taylor

Chrystal Taylor is a Head Geek™ at SolarWinds. She is a dedicated technologist with nearly a decade of experience and has built her career by leveraging curiosity to solve problems, no matter the size, industry, or client.

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