In the digital age, technology plays an essential role in business. Technology in every industry is constantly evolving and IT departments must keep up. The role of IT has changed from backstage support, to a full-on business driver. With technology bringing more and more value to businesses, there are a multitude of challenges that come with it. Here are some of the biggest IT problems CIOs in small businesses face today:
Hiring and Retaining Employees
With the role of IT growing at a rapid pace in the professional world, the gap of skills is becoming increasingly bigger. FitSmallBusiness.com named this issue as one of the top four problems across all business functions. IT workforces today have much different needs than those of the past. The staff must be well-equipped with a variety of skills and must be able to evolve quickly to a constantly evolving landscape. Although the requirement of evolving technical skills is not a new phenomenon, the models that support technology-based services are in higher demand than ever. In order for business to grow, IT staff must be able to adapt to retooling and drive innovation within their roles.
When hiring the right staff, management needs to look for qualities such as adaptability, emotional intelligence, and the will to take initiative in an evolving industry. Retaining a talented IT staff is crucial and requires even more diligence to achieve quality results. There must be a culture of teamwork within the department so the staff is able to grow while updating their knowledge and skills. Businesses must create a work environment where diversity and ideas are welcomed and the staff feels respected. For a small business, management needs to put long-term commitments into their IT staff where they can expect career development and opportunities to move up.
Leveraging IT to Achieve Company Goals
For a small business to achieve its goals, the operational aspects of IT systems must be crystal clear to everyone involved. From collaboration over the new features of Office 365, to creating and installing a new CRM, IT must be a partner in the driving forces behind the business. With an evolving technological landscape, not demonstrating business value within IT will hinder an institution from proper growth.
Leaders need to educate their IT staff on the importance of data-driven results in advancing institutional goals for a small business. The staff needs to be on the same page with the use of analytics and data-management planning. The best way for small businesses to optimize the value of IT is to develop a strategy for using data to create deeper business intelligence.
Managing Change and IT Innovation
Change within an IT department is happening at an extremely rapid pace. IT is driving innovation like never before and leaders need to be able manage change properly before change happens on its own. Small businesses are struggling to not only gauge the pace of the IT movement, but are also having trouble learning how to cope with the sheer volume of change. The problem lies in how to effectively engage multiple aspects within a business to expand IT services. IT is evolving in terms of platform and infrastructure. Small companies must usher in new business-specific initiatives in order to stay updated.
The key is being able to create a management role that deals directly with IT advancement. From dealing with a small change such as a VoIP installation to something much larger like a full-scale website overhaul, this person must consistently be working with other departments to ensure seamless integration of it services. Along with having the right role to properly support the evolution of IT, there needs to a proven methodology in play to support changes.
User Support and Instant Communications
IT support has always been relatively difficult to effectively provide to users. There are vast amounts of needs that require different levels of expertise and communication styles. Technical issues occur regularly and if there is no IT specialist around to identify the problem, the user is out of luck. With an increasingly complex infrastructure, users are forced to resort to trial-and-error analysis as they need their problems solved immediately.
The solution is to embrace forms of support that brings assistance right to the user, usually in the form of instant chats, fast email replies, and mobile support. Businesses should also invest in knowledge management to expand the capability to provide users with self-support.
Being Open and Secure
Balancing openness and security is a growing pain-point in the professional world. There is a challenge for small businesses in protecting data and networks while maintaining an open business model with both their customers and their industry. Small businesses must be able to conduct themselves safely, securely, and ethically in the evolving digital world. Garter Consulting has a fantastic report and free seminar on cyber security and digital business. Read more here.
Small businesses must develop a risk profile for new and existing technologies to help itemize and analyze all challenging factors. Educating all departments to understand consequences of the risks will help minimize potential problems. For small businesses, this can sometimes be accomplished through a quick meeting on the security of private and proprietary information.
Many of these issues relating to IT problems for small businesses are intertwined. The best way to solve these problems is by facing challenges with proper education and access to information. Being aware of these problems is the first step to removing painful IT problems from your everyday business activities.
Guest Author Bio: Evan Harris is the founder and owner of SD Equity Partners. As a successful small business owner, Evan has seen the evolution of Information Technology first hand and has experience implementing new technologies to alleviate issues within his own business.