Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 99% of all businesses in the EU according to the European Commission. So, when it comes to finding the right level of IT support for a growing business, an off-the-peg solution simply won’t cut it.
In 1983, Harvard Business Review identified the five ‘life’ stages of a business as existence, survival, success, take-off and resource maturity. That’s why, our latest campaign – Reach your IT peak – is focused around helping SMEs to decipher their individual IT requirements and finding the right level of support for them.
So, how can you ensure that your organisation has all the IT support it needs at each stage of your adventure?
Existence – It’s just you and a flask of coffee
For most SME’s, the early days involve just the business owner and their computer. At this stage you will be incredibly hands-on across each and every aspect of the company. Like a walker preparing to head out on their very first hike, you’ll be keeping the equipment basic until you’re ready to take things to the next stage.
Whilst you might not look for any IT support aside from reactive problem-solving, it might be a good time give some thought to your cyber security and data back-up needs. That’s understandable, your focus will be on growing your customer base and keeping existing clients happy.
Survival – Time for teammates
Survival is key for all mountaineers. This stage of your SME journey is like reaching ‘base camp’ on Everest. You’ve already achieved something great, but there is plenty of hard work still to come. Inevitably, this means adding more equipment to your toolkit, but you really don’t want to be that person who has ‘all the gear but no idea’.
As your customer base – and cash flow – grows, it might be time to expand your team too. You’ll be thinking very carefully about who you surround yourself with at this point, and you need to make sure you pick your A-team well.
But, as the headcount increases, so do your technical needs. A full-time IT person probably isn’t on your radar, but you might consider some third-party support, just to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
A basic package might offer essential desktop, asset management and server solutions, as well as advanced online security and data management. Having someone ready to deal with any IT-related issues which crop up can be a real lifesaver should storm clouds gather overhead.
Success – Consolidation and stabilisation
Just like you’d make several acclimatisation climbs before you tackled the summit of a mountain, the same goes with taking your business to the next step. You know what you’re doing – and you do it well – it’s now all about getting yourself into the best possible position before you move on.
You’ll have your route mapped out in a clear business plan and it’s time to approach some investors to help you ascend the SME ladder. If you’re successful, you’re going to need a lot more support in every element of the business.
Now might be the time you think about a more intermediate level of IT support. Perhaps you don’t want to commit to the costs of recruiting a full-time member of staff, but want to know you have proactive, preventative support across your network.
Outsourcing your IT requirements not only removes the hassle that day-to-day management of your systems can bring, but it can also help with practical how-to guides, plus ongoing asset management and server support. Not only that, but you’ll probably need something a little more advanced in terms of security and management systems, ahead of your next big move.
Take off – The summit bid
As you prepare for your summit bid, your company will continue to grow in all directions, and a more formal structure will inevitably start to emerge. Your early teammates will have become managers and you’ll probably start to play a more strategic role yourself.
This might be the time you recruit some in-house IT support. Someone who lives and breathes your company day-to-day can offer a much deeper understanding of your network, systems and setup. Plus, they will soon be well-versed when it comes to the intricacies of company politics.
They say ‘two heads are better than one’ and having an in-house solution isn’t always a one-stop-shop. There’s an argument to say that having an internal expert who is bolstered by third-party specialist support can give you the best possible chance of reaching your IT peak.
Maturity – Time to admire the view
You’ve reached the top of your SME peak – congratulations! Now it’s time to take a step back and admire the view.
No doubt by now, you’ll have teams of people handling every element of your business, with various levels of management to boot. Day-to-day control will be managed by experts within their field, and your IT department should be no different.
At this stage you’ll need a much more advanced level of support. It goes without saying that you’ll still need all the basics covered – such as hardware, software, back-ups and security – but on a much more advanced scale. It’s time to look at two-factor authentication, site-to-site connectivity and of course, making sure your teams can work remotely without any issues.
No matter where you are on your business growth adventure, seeking the right assistance – at the right time can get you to the top. Going it alone is futile past a certain point, so it’s crucial to ensure you’re enlisting professional support to help rather than hinder your progress.
Our comprehensive IT audit will help you reassess what support you need, whatever stage you’re at in your journey. Starting out with a thorough 36-point health check of your current IT infrastructure and processes, we’ll then present our findings and recommendations in an easy-to-digest graphical report. Contact us to find out more.