Small business owners often find it challenging to invest in the right tech for their businesses. If done correctly, the right IT can transform your business by boosting productivity, collaboration, and communication, accelerating sales, and opening brand new markets. Let’s look at seven ways tech can help you ensure your business meets its goals.
1. Evaluate your IT status
As quickly as technology is advancing, it’s a good idea to evaluate your IT status every year. Does all the technology you use perform as you would like it to? What technology are you missing out on that would improve your business? This is where a good IT consultant comes in. You want to work with a pro who is impartial and unbiased, who will work with your business interest at heart. You may find that everything you’re using right now is exactly what you need. But to keep your technology from slipping behind the curve, it’s smart to plan and budget for technology growth as your company grows.
2. Explore your own productivity tools
First, look at the productivity tools you already have, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Within each software you already use, there are likely several amazing features you aren’t even aware of so you never use – but some of your employees may. It’s smart to meet with your team members and find out how they are using your software more productively, which would be good info to share with the whole team.
3. Create an online strategy
Every business needs a solid online strategy, even if you don’t sell any product or service online. You need to have a presence online, a way for potential customers to find you easily, know what you’re about, and how to contact you. At minimum, make sure you have a Google My Business account set up. It’s a powerful and robust search tool that’s free and used by millions of people every hour.
4. Optimize your website
A lot of small businesses make the mistake of thinking their website is once and done. Building your website is only the first step. It needs to stay updated to serve you. An outdated website is not good for business. It may have out outdated design, information, and functionality. Google is not friendly to poorly optimized websites, so you could become almost invisible in search results if your website is not current and optimized. If you don’t have anyone in-house to keep your site fresh, you may need to outsource content updates and SEO.
5. Engage employees
When considering new or upgraded technology for your business, never overlook the people who will be using that technology every day! Your employees are an excellent resource for informing you on the limitations of your current systems, and what functionality they wish they had to perform their jobs better.
6. Consider a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
A CRM system will help to ensure you understand your customers better and capitalize on sales opportunities. It will also help you to remain organized by centralizing all your customers’ information, and taking it one step further, you will be able to give customers a far more personalized service and follow up properly with any prospects.
7. Keep on top of tech security
Your cyber security needs constant attention. Make sure you have a cyber security policy covering such areas as acceptable use, password guidelines, security practices and rules for downloading software. Putting a firewall in place is not a security plan. A security breach can wipe data or hold it hostage for a ransom, and no business, no matter how small, is safe without an active and evolving security plan.
Running a small business efficiently isn’t easy – every business in every sector share some of the same challenges:
- Recruiting the right team
- Cyber security
- Effective time management
- Attracting customers
- Maintaining customers
These are times when nothing comes easy to any business – but with the help of technology these challenges don’t have to have such a drastic effect on the daily activities and workflow of your team. Rather than worrying about them, these obstacles can be tackled methodically and approached with careful planning. Let’s take a look at some of the tech tools that can help.
Small businesses can save valuable time and money by purchasing Cloud computing services rather than owning and operating their own IT infrastructure, and depending on your current on-premise IT infrastructure, you can save considerable space too! The premise of Cloud computing means that you only pay for what you use, allowing you to avoid the upfront costs of maintaining dedicated servers and hiring specialized IT staff – saving you a lot of money in the long term.
Cloud computing services vary, from basic file storage, all the way to artificial intelligence. It allows your team to collaborate and access data from any location on the globe, securely.
There are two main service models of Cloud computing:
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
- SaaS (Software as a Service)
It is worth talking to an IT professional if you are unsure which is right for your organization.
Leveraging the Influence of social media
The power and influence of social media cannot be understated. If your business begins generating positive engagements with potential clients, then the rate at which the popularity of your organization can grow can reach lightning speeds. If you use the powers of social media effectively, its far-reaching connectivity can help you to target not only your local customer base but also perhaps the previously untapped resource of the international market.
The best thing about using social media platforms is their cost, or lack of, the most famous ones available on the market are free! There are also tools available that allow you to measure and analyze the performance of each of your social media marketing campaigns.
AI and Machine Learning
AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines. Some specific applications of AI include expert systems, natural language processing (NLP), speech recognition and machine vision.
Machine Learning is a form of AI that allows your system to learn and improve from experience without being programmed explicitly to perform that task. AI focuses on computer systems that try to replicate skills that humans can do, whereas Machine Learning processes data, recognizing patterns in order to develop algorithms. In other words, AI and Machine Learning are progressive and will continue to advance.
In simple terms, AI and Machine Learning – if implemented, managed, and maintained correctly – can take the mundane tasks off the hands of your team, allowing them to better utilize their own skills.
If you’re a small or medium business, especially a startup, take full advantage of the technology that will boost efficiency. Technology is an investment that will cut costs and make the work of your team more efficient.
.Contact us now to learn how mPowered IT can help your business.
Tools that were originally designed to help your business achieve efficiency may now inadvertently be costing you time and money. As you strive to do more with less, you need technology to deliver efficiency.
Business Process Automation (BPA) makes this a reality. It allows you to create a technological ecosystem with every feature working in conjunction with another.
Business Process Automation – What is it?
Business Process Automation has revolutionized businesses by creating more efficient workflows. It frees your team to spend more of their time doing things that are productive and beneficial to the organization. In a well-run business, everything has an efficient process structure to it so that tasks are achieved as accurately as possible for as little cost as possible.
Business Process Automation works off the same set of rules. Working from an initial trigger action, be that prescheduled or because of a prior human action, a series of pre-scripted events will then take place – removing the laborious task of manually working that long list of steps. You define your own parameters from which the automation will act.
Why would you BPA and where can it help you?
Let’s look at a real-world example of Business Process Automation and then break it down to see how it helped.
A business is growing and is beginning to amass a reasonable following on social media. The business is inundated with tweets every day, diverting some employee’s attention from normal duties to respond and engage. This big positive for the popularity of the business has become a problem. A simple but completely manual process is taking up valuable time each day.
By managing this task manually, you may find other work is not getting done on time, or some clients are not getting due attention, or service elsewhere suffers. And this particular task, managing social media, is really a full-time job, even a 24/7 job. If you use social media, you have to stay engaged for it to work for you.
This is where Business Process Automation comes in.
The business introduces Business Process Automation (Power Automate by Microsoft) to manage the workload that the tweets are creating. With Power Automate, you can set up a flow that follows the potential customer, sends them a reply, and adds them to a spreadsheet that is then automatically emailed to you for your approval.
In this example, Power Automate made it possible for the member of the team to get back to the job they were hired to do, and not be constantly pulled away to respond to tweets.
Business Process Automation allows you to increase efficiency and productivity while reducing errors, and keep control of your processes. Arguably the most important of all the benefits of Business Process Automation is the insight it gives you, breaking down business processes the way that BPA requires, will give you new insight into the working of your own organization.
So, how do you implement it?
How to implement BPA in your workplace
Implementing BPA is a challenge that requires thought and planning. This is a collaborative initiative that you’ll want to share with your whole team.
Identify tasks to be automated
Start by collecting feedback from your employees, and by looking at customer problems and request sheets. This will give you an idea of what the glaring challenges are that need automating first.
Most sectors of your business face blockages in their daily workflows. Ask your employees, who have fist-hand knowledge of these challenges. Once having discovered and decided on the correct opportunity, talk to your IT team about software solutions such as most commonly Power Automate by Microsoft. They will have the responsibility of managing the program throughout integration and uniting the software with your business goals.
Analyzing customer support requests and complaints is another good way of spotting opportunities for automation. It may be beneficial to provide a questionnaire to get some feedback from your customers about the things they feel are great and things that can be improved.
Outline business goals
Knowing your goals will guide you to automate the right parts of your business. What is best accomplished with manual human interaction and what is best accomplished through automation? You must also find a way of measuring its success once it its implemented. You can do this via financial figures, employee feedback, or other means.
Get the team on board
Creating a company culture that’s adaptable to change within your organization is essential. Involve your team every step of the way, in integral decisions going forward, and be sure they receive the training they need to make the automation successful.
The last step is to monitor the system frequently to see that it continues to make a difference to the workday. BPA tools are not static – they change and adapt constantly, along with your business. The best tools you work with today could be your company’s biggest hinderance tomorrow, so stay aware of changing technology. For unbiased consultation on the technology that will work best for your business today and down the road, contact mPowered IT.
The increase in cyber threats in recent yeas has made the job of your IT team far more difficult. Keeping your network secure can take the focus away from keeping your technology updated and running properly. Single Sign On can take some of the strain off your IT team, allowing them to concentrate more on the tasks that are more important to growth of your organization.
Single Sign On – What is it?
Single Sign On (SSO) allows your users to log in to any related software system with a single username and password. Doing this makes the process of logging in much easier and reduces the likelihood of forgetting passwords. SSO can be real time saver.
How does it work?
Once a user accesses a website using SSO, they can then enter a different website that has the same relationship with the SSO solution. The authentication flow follows the same steps. Put simply, the system remembers that you got the password right on the original site and it will then allow access to the new site.
Does Single Sign On make my organization more or less secure?
SSO can be good and bad – the same features that make it an efficiency booster also make it a vulnerable feature in your IT landscape. It can potentially give a hacker one password to access multiple sites. Your employees may be accessing multiple sites and apps each day in the course of their jobs. Your IT team must have full identity governance to be sure that SSO is as secure as possible. Many companies tackle this issue by purchasing a centralized identity authenticator on special servers, allowing them to govern access to their system. When a team member signs in, their authentication passes through the SSO server, it then passes on their credential for authorizing that person to the app.
You can take this even further by implementing multi-factor or two-factor authentication – which will drastically improve the levels of security your organization is able to achieve. Anything that requires your team to prove their identity is a good thing – once having done so they can use their SSO login credentials successfully.
SSO – alongside other tools – can revolutionize your workplace going forward.
mPowered IT – Ensuring Your Cyber Security
mPoweredIT are your go-to proactive partner in keeping IT systems secure and defended. We never leave things to chance or wait for a problem to arise – predicting and preparing for the threats of tomorrow will help ensure your valuable data is protected and your business continuity maintained.
We live in an age of constantly evolving technology! These constant changes can bring apprehension about the future. In the following article, we will outline just how important the right tech – and professionals supporting it – are in your quest for efficiency in 2022.
So, what will 2022 bring?
Your business may still be feeling the effects of the pandemic, and your workplace could be unrecognizable from what it was a few years ago. You may have gone into survival mode, but as the pandemic is continuing into 2022 – it is time for a more prepared and revised approach. Think long term.
Your employees may have returned to the office, and now, with the omicron variant, you’re considering going fully remote again. If your remote strategy has been for employees to use their home PC’s and laptops, it’s important to understand the risks this brings to your company’s network security, and also the opportunities you may be missing.
What the Wrong IT Can Mean for Your Business
In the rush to transition to a remote workforce, many businesses ended up equipping their home offices with the wrong tools. Using outdated, unprotected, or incapable software or hardware can have a detrimental effect on your security, as well as business functionality.
This is referred to as Shadow IT.
Shadow IT is IT that your organization has no control over. If you have no organizational requirements for control, documentation, security, or reliability, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Cyber attacks can cause debilitating effects, which can range from the theft of sensitive information all the way to deliberate attacks on hardware, potentially causing equipment failures.
Some of the most common forms of cyber attack are Phishing emails, Malware, and Ransomware. Cyber crime is constantly evolving and new methods of attack are being developed and unleashed daily. Your remote workforce may be more vulnerable to attack, especially if they are using their own computers.
It’s important to have security protocols in place in normal times, when everyone is mostly working at the office, but far more important when employees are scattered, and working on their own devices from home. It’s more than worth it to have a professional IT company review your security, show you where your systems are vulnerable, and put a solid plan in place.
Unfamiliarity with the Capabilities of IT
If you haven’t had the time to keep up with the latest trends in tech, you may not be aware of what tools are now available to make your business run more efficiently. You may have already transitioned to Cloud Computing but are you using its capabilities to the full potential? When used correctly, cloud computing offers a way to have data backups in various locations, allowing you to guarantee business continuity even if a disaster strikes. What about your phone system? A VoIP cloud-based phone system may be much more practical and could serve your business better for less money. An unbiased IT consultant can review your business and recommend technology that works best for your specific company and budget.
mPowered IT – Ensuring You Are Cyber Secure
mPowered IT is your go-to proactive partner in keeping IT systems secure and defended, and your technology up to date. We never leave things to chance or wait for a problem to arise. We’re protect your systems as if it’s our business on the line.
Most small businesses don’t invest enough in technology, or at the very least they don’t do it often enough. For some this is due to apprehension about spending money on tools they know very little about, and some have the approach of ‘so what, it still works so I don’t care’. Both are fair points to make, but the reality is that outdated tech can cause serious problems in your workplace. Think about it – when was the last time you invested in technology?
Most businesses have a mixture of old and new technology integrated into their workflows. The majority of businesses replace their tech, when necessary, usually when the hardware has become outdated or in the event of system breakdowns. An overhaul of your entire system is perceived as being too disruptive, which is why a slow gradual approach is preferred and recommended.
All businesses have pieces of hardware or software that are aging, the rate at which the technological world is evolving makes this inevitable. But with the right education and IT consultancy you can be well on your way to a modern technological future.
The hidden issues of outdated tech in your business
An office full of old technology, can actually cost you more than upgrading to new technology. Most new technology is designed to increase efficiency, and as you know, if your team isn’t able to be as efficient as possible, it’s costing you money. Also, older technology eats more energy. Newer systems tend to run more efficiently, saving you energy costs.
Do you allocate part of your annual budget on technology? Like we said earlier, if things are working fine many business owners don’t see the point in making changes. But it’s smarter to budget for technology, and make sure you’re using current systems, rather than have surprise and costly fixes.
Outdated tech is more likely to experience failures. Emergency IT support will be far more expensive than the preventative measures that can be implemented into current, updated systems. The last thing you want to do is to be forced to purchase new technology, and make a snap decision just to get your business back online. It’s always better to plan for what technology you’ll need next.
Work is going to grow ever more flexible as time goes on, and with the unpredictability of the modern workplace, those that are more flexible are set to be the industry leaders going forward. Work doesn’t get much more flexible than when working remotely, working from home, the office, or on the go – without sacrificing productivity or employees wellbeing – is the future of business worldwide.
It is important that you have confidence in your systems, hardware, and devices. You need to be certain that they are secure and functional when working from a remote setting. Outdated tech rarely offers the functionality – or more importantly the levels of security possible with modern tech. Update your tech with remote working in mind and your team will reap the many benefits of remote working.
A loss of customers
Old technology will likely lose you customers. Let’s take a look how.
When working on outdated tech you are for more likely to be the victim of a cyber attack. Your data being compromised will likely cause your customers to lose faith in your ability to protect their data, in turn, leading them to go to your competitors instead.
Modern alternatives are far faster and less ‘buggy’ than outdated tech. This may affect the quality of communication that you have with your customer base and may affect the quality of service you can offer them. This will also cause customers to look for a better experience and quality of service elsewhere.
The relationship you have with your clients is arguably the most crucial element to a successful business. Slow tech can seriously affect the quality of service you are able to offer. The last thing a customer wants is delays, and continuous delays will probably lead you to lose their trust. Slow operations and response times don’t reflect well on your business.
We all know cyber attacks are more frequent now than ever before, predominantly due to the pandemic and the increase in our reliance on tech. No matter the size of your business, you are not safe from them, you don’t have to be turning over millions of dollars a year to become a victim. It is, in fact, the opposite. Most cyber criminals target smaller businesses because they presume they won’t have put the resources into advanced cyber security solutions meaning there are more gaps to target.
While your technology evolves, the methods that cyber criminals use to penetrate your systems evolve alongside it. The latest version of any technology is always the best equipped to protect your systems from security threats. The latest tech will have modern preventative measures as standard – this combined with the tools you have purchased will put you in a better position to defend your system.
Vendors eventually stop supporting older systems, making them vulnerable. A lack of security updates will mean that new issues are not remedied. Patching becomes impossible and it’s unlikely that you will be able to prevent breaches until it is too late. Using modern technology will have the opposite effect – a secure productive technological environment.
mPoweredIT – Ensuring You are Cyber Secure
mPowered IT can be your proactive partner in keeping IT systems secure and defended. We never leave things to chance or wait for a problem to arise – predicting and preparing for the threats of tomorrow will help ensure your valuable data is protected and your business continuity maintained.