Building a Strategic Technology Plan Part 2

continued from part 1.

Sound Infrastructure Choices

Look for long term solutions with broad compatibility when choosing a software solutions. Generally, open source platforms are easier for other vendors to integrate their add-on solutions with and help keep costs lower. Consider that today your company may only need an accounting program with payroll software, but tomorrow, you will need to add Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs to manage revenue and service. If none of your software tools connect, it will be difficult or impossible to share information and your eventual conversion to an integrated system is going to be costly.

A PBX System (Private Branch Exchange) for your telephone system, whether tangible, or provided as virtual equipment by an outside agency, is essential.  But it must also be secure so that hackers cannot help themselves to your service. It must also have integration with other CRM solutions as well as robust reporting capabilities. Again, security and vendor accountability are paramount in the overall value of the offer.

In addition, the PBX platform may also support eFaxing, Skype, transcription support and soft phones, helping to eliminate reoccurring expenses. Virtual offices can also benefit from a variety of leading edge features that help create efficiencies while keeping your employees connected. These may not be features you need now, but will come to rely on later to meet your needs in the future.

Many ERP systems are modular (e.g. SAP).  You can buy just Accounting, or just Payroll, or any single component you need, and when you are ready to expand, everything just plugs in and works together. It might be a little more expensive initially, but it will eliminate integration problems in the future.  Also consider the capital loss of replacing expensive software, purchased individually, that is no longer compatible and you are well ahead of the game.
Case Study: A taxi company’s phone was hacked, and while the hack was spotted quickly because taxis are 24-hour operations, their telephone company took 5 long hours to agree to disable the service. During that time, hackers charged up $14,000 in billing, which the victim taxi company had to pay. This is usually a condition upon which business can possess a PBX system in the first place and they must agree to pay for all calls generated by it.

An alternative to traditional enterprise solutions is a virtual-based software. This process, known as Software as a Service (SaaS), accesses a single software load from a virtual source instead of individually installed programs. This means an end to incompatibilities as everything is easily shared across your business seamlessly and the provider manages the updates and patches in the source location.

If you’re a software developer it might make more sense to utilize Platform as a Service (PaaS) which is excellent for home-grown customization and internal software management.  The cost savings can be enormous and the time saved can get you to market faster than your competitors.

Managing Costs

It’s very unusual for an SMB to spend more than $100,000 on technology resources and solutions; most spend just $10,000 or less annually2.  Protect your budget through a strategic plan that promotes better decisions making well before the need arises. This plan will not only match your business goals, but effectively help your company reach them.

Imagine where you want to be in three, five, and ten years and then select the technology you need (hardware, software, or methodology), that will get you there in the most efficient way possible.  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

2. CompTia SMB Survey for Technology Investments, 2014