While brick-and-mortar aspects of business remain key to many industries, from manufacturing to service providers, IT has become an essential part of every single business. From Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to accounting, websites to data management, and so on, we all need information technology to help our businesses work in these modern times.
We want to help business owners and managers understand how to prioritize and plan out their IT infrastructure for today and the future.
Who Is This Blog For?
This blog is for business owners who want to learn more about the essential applications of IT in their business, not IT experts. It is designed to make technology more approachable and less intimidating and to help business owners understand how technology can solve or simplify issues in their business.
With the increasing shift towards digital marketplaces, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses of all sizes to assess their technological needs and uses. This guide will focus on the practical applications of IT, rather than the technical details, to make it accessible for business owners of all levels of technical expertise. It will also avoid the use of technical jargon to ensure that the information is clear and easy to understand.
In short, this guide is for business owners who want to learn more about how technology can benefit their business but may not have a strong background in IT. It will provide practical and actionable advice that can be applied to any business, regardless of size or industry.
If you’re looking for the geeky jargon and technical details, there are a lot of great resources out there, like guides to cybersecurity frameworks, tools for sysadmins, and data backup tools. We’re focusing on helping business owners and managers get the most out of their technology without having to parse through all the technicalities.
The 4 IT Essentials (In Order Of Priority)
When it comes to IT essentials for every business, there are four key areas that are of paramount importance. These are security, resiliency, experience, and productivity. Here's a more detailed explanation of each of these areas.
Security is the foundation upon which all other IT needs are built. It provides a framework for protecting core business assets and is essential for preventing cyberattacks. Unfortunately, 43% of cyberattacks happen to small businesses, and the average cost of a data breach is $9.5 million, which includes not just technical needs but also PR, post-mortem, and assuring client confidence.
Resiliency refers to the ability of a business to quickly recover from an incident, such as a data breach or system failure. This includes having a framework in place to assure continuity, recover data, recover from ransomware, and so on. It also includes having redundancy and backups in place, as well as backup plans for when systems go down. It's important to remember that there's no such thing as 100% security. Human error can be a problem - in fact, more than 80% of data breaches happen as a result of social engineering - so it's essential to test and re-test your resiliency/disaster recovery plans periodically.
This is about ensuring that clients have the experience they need and that technology is accessible. The other three essentials should be seamless so that clients don't even know they're there. It's also important to consider how technology impacts the employee experience, such as whether it makes work easier or harder, whether it provides better or more information, and whether it speeds up or slows down the response/project/sale cycle time.
This is about ensuring that employees have the tools and support they need to do their jobs. While it's important, it's second to the functional foundations of security and resiliency. On average, people lose about 22 minutes every day to productivity drains, which equates to almost 2 hours per employee every week. This often arises from the gap between design and user experience, so it's important to take user experience into account from the beginning.
These four areas are the essential aspects of IT for every business to address and prioritize to keep their IT infrastructure and operations running smoothly. It is important to consider these areas in order of priority and to have a solid plan in place that is updated regularly as the situation evolves.
It is also important to revisit and revise your IT plan based on these four essential priorities regularly. Depending on how dynamic your technology needs and staffing are, the more change, the more frequently you should be revisiting this. For example, if your business is rapidly growing, you may want to revisit your plan more frequently, such as every month or quarter, to ensure that your IT infrastructure can keep up with the growth of your business. If your business is relatively stable and slow to change, a yearly review might be perfectly adequate.
There are a few additional considerations to keep in mind when it comes to IT for business beyond the 4 IT essentials. The important of these are costs and financials. When planning for upgrades, updates, and new infrastructure, it's important to consider the long-term costs and budget accordingly. This will help ensure that your business has the resources it needs to maintain and improve its IT infrastructure over time.
Another important consideration is general long-term planning and aligning your IT plans with your business plans. It is important to have a plan in place that accounts not just for IT upgrades, updates, and new infrastructure but how the scope, role, services, staffing, and other facets of your business will change and how this may, in turn, affect your IT needs. This will help ensure that your business is always up-to-date with not only the latest technology but the right technology for your unique situation and marketplace. If you’re struggling to develop a comprehensive IT plan, consider the questions in the next section.
Ask Yourself (or Your IT person) These 10 Important Questions
When thinking about your company's IT needs, it's important to start with the practical needs of your business and then figure out how IT can help. Asking yourself or your IT person the following questions can help you get started on the process of identifying and solving problems with great IT solutions.
- Are we confident in our IT security across our organization? This question will help you determine if your current IT security measures are adequate for protecting your business from cyber threats and data breaches.
- Is the technology we’re using making our employees more productive and happier? This question will help you assess whether the technology your business is using is helping to improve employee productivity and satisfaction or if it may be causing more problems than it's solving.
- What is the plan in case of a data breach or loss? This question will help you understand what steps your business needs to take in the event of a data breach or loss in order to minimize the impact and quickly recover.
- How do we shore up our technology from a business perspective? This question will help you understand what steps need to be taken to improve the overall security and reliability of your business's technology infrastructure.
- How can we ensure we have appropriate security controls and policies to protect core business assets? This question will help you understand what measures need to be put in place to protect your business's most valuable assets from cyber threats and data breaches.
- How does the technology we’re using help us keep our data secure, report to clients, and to improve productivity, etc.? This question will help you understand how the technology your business is using is helping you meet your business goals and what areas may need improvement.
- How quickly can we recover from a data breach or a loss of core data? This question will help you understand what steps need to be taken to recover quickly from a data breach or loss in order to minimize the impact on your business.
- How can we test our plans and processes? This question will help you understand what steps need to be taken to test your IT security plans and processes to ensure they are effective in the event of a real-world incident.
- What are cost-effective improvements to productivity available? This question will help you understand what steps can be taken to improve employee productivity in a cost-effective way.
- Does your IT security work for remote workers? If not, can it be adapted easily to do so? This question will help you understand if your IT security solutions are suitable for remote workers and, if not, what steps need to be taken to adapt them.
How to Get Started Making IT Work For Your Business
First, talk to your IT team (whether they’re on your staff or an outside firm) and ask them all of the above questions that resonate with you and your company's pain points. They can provide valuable insight and advice on addressing your specific IT needs.
If your company is too small to need an in-house IT team, consider using IT-in-a-box services. These services can provide small businesses with access to the same IT infrastructure and support that larger businesses have without needing a large in-house IT team. (If you want to weigh the pros and cons of an internal team versus outsourcing, check out this blog.)
When assessing your needs and how to meet them, it's important to balance costs and benefits. Consider whether it's more cost-effective to hire staff or an outside firm with various specialists and whether you need a dedicated staff member to be the lead liaison with that firm and responsible within your company for implementation and staying up-to-date.
When addressing the IT essentials, it's important to start with security, then move on to resiliency, experience, and productivity. Talk to your software solution vendors to get basic backups of databases, CRMs, etc., to start addressing your security and resiliency needs, then move into talking to your staff and clients to understand how to improve their experiences and the productivity of your workforce.
It's also important to differentiate technology problems from policy and staffing problems. IT security can never completely solve the problem of human error, so it's important to have clear policies and procedures in place and to train employees on how to use technology safely and securely.
It's important to control access to information and technology based on employee roles, especially for remote workers. By limiting access on an as-needed basis, you can minimize risks inherent to any given employee’s accounts and logins being compromised.
Finally, research the relevant security frameworks for your industry. Different industries have different standard practices for information security, so it's important to comply with industry standards to ensure your business is secure. This is a great place to start, regardless of business size.
About Uprise Partners
Uprise Partners is a Maine-based technology company that specializes in providing IT, software engineering, and cybersecurity to small and medium-sized businesses. For the past three years we’ve been named one of the top 100 IT security firms and top 500 managed service providers in the North America.
Our goal is to help companies of every size and industry focus on their work by providing seamlessly functioning systems and applications. We've worked with more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies, and our team has decades of industry experience.
We’re also known by our clients for being responsive, helpful, and good-humored. We believe in people-first technology, that every business is unique and that the solutions should reflect that, and that the best solutions are what works best for the business. We strive to be an extension of our clients’ teams, and we’re dedicated to business success by identifying the best possible tools to achieve various specific business needs.
If it sounds like we’ll be a good fit for your business, please reach out to us today to learn more about our services and how we can help make IT work for your business!
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