IT Assurance helps business owners make good choices. Sometimes the best option for a business is to buy new equipment and set up new systems. And, more often, we find that business owners can save significant amounts of money and gain important business efficiencies by improving their existing systems and processes.
We recommend taking a hard look at your current processes and systems before buying IT services.
Improve File Organization Practices Instead of Buying a Data Organization System
One of the most frequent requests we get is from companies who realize their computer files are a mess. The shared folders are crowded. There are multiple documents with confusing names. Surprisingly often clients report they have folders called “DO NOT OPEN” that they are scared to death to open.
Often, businesses want us to find or create software to help with data organization. However, buying a data organization system will not solve this problem. If your files are a mess and your people are saving documents in the wrong places, data organization system software makes things worse. What will happen is that bad habits become deeply embedded into the software.
The software may make things look nicer for a while, but soon all of the bad habits of your staff will clutter up even the smartest data organization system software.
Before you spend a lot of money on software, invest time to fix your people and process problem. Develop a clear set of steps and best practices to follow for saving, organizing, and archiving files. Create a written process and distribute it to broadly, and then assign file organization as a job role to an employee.
We find it works best when companies take the time to train everyone on the best data organization practices and then, critically, enforce the changes. We suggest assigning a specific employee to the enforcement and training role. Once your team is up to speed on the new policy and is implementing it you may find you no longer have a file organization problem.
But, if you do still need a software solution you will be able to invest in one with confidence that your process is solid and your new data organization system software will actually make your data problem better instead of just hiding the bad habits.
Develop Inventory Control Systems Before Buying Inventory Control Software
While some businesses struggle with digital organization, other businesses struggle with physical organization. Often, we have had clients approach us to ask for help finding a powerful and effective inventory control software. While this is in our wheelhouse, we often find that before companies spend money on enterprise level software they must fix their physical inventory system.
We have seen multiple cases where during an inventory count a business has discovered a shockingly large inventory discrepancy. Sometimes the discrepancy is big enough to turn a profitable year into a loss. Software will not solve this problem.
We understand that inventory is a pain and that it is tempting to try to buy your way out of your inventory woes. However, before any inventory software will work properly your system needs to work on paper and in Excel. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.
Proper inventory practices are a key discipline for a successful company, not an end of the year afterthought. Before paying for inventory software, get an OMEP consultant to help you iron out a solid, workable paper inventory system. Once that works you will be ready to improve your inventory efficiency with software.
Set Clearer Expectations For Your Sales Team Instead of an Expensive New CRM
Often we get requests to help develop and implement a new CRM that will tightly regulate, control and manage a sales team. Companies want to ensure salespeople are setting clear expectations with clients, and that they are doing a good job of developing leads and following up with prospects.
As useful as software is, it can’t solve all issues because software cannot be used to manage people. Software alone can’t motivate people to do a job well. We find that many companies who are asking for a CRM actually need a better measurement system in place to set their salespeople up for success. When desired outcomes are clear and measurable, everyone understands how to succeed. This can be accomplished without a fancy CRM.
Of course, software is great at making your processes and systems more efficient and collecting data to inform future decisions. Once your sales team understands what is expected of them in a measurable way, a new CRM may be a good investment. Once everyone is aligned around goals, we have found that the right CRM can take a good sales team and help them achieve great results.
Invest in Staff Training Instead of Expensive Security Software and Hardware
Hackers and cyber thieves are a legitimate threat to all types of businesses. However, many companies want to throw money at their security problems in the hopes that computer viruses, malware, and other threats will all magically go away.
But, most companies fail to address the single biggest security risk their organization has: their employees. The men and women who sit at their keyboards day-after-day are the ones that are most likely to unwittingly allow criminals access to your data and systems.
If you do not have a detailed set of security protocols for your employees to follow, spending all the money in the world will not help you be more secure. Instead, it will be like buying a million dollar home security system and then leaving all your doors open when you leave on vacation.
Before you invest heavily in IT security software and hardware, you should take the following steps:
- Develop a set of standard operating procedures around cybersecurity. These procedures should cover things like not sharing passwords, how to choose a secure password, not opening attachments or clicking on links in emails, how to spot a phishing scam, and other relevant topics.
- Distribute these written procedures to everyone. Anyone who touches a computer should receive a copy of the cybersecurity standard operating procedures, pass a test on those procedures, and keep a copy in their desk.
- Make everyone responsible for following these procedures and encourage people to admit mistakes. It is better to quickly find out someone made a mistake and clicked a bad link than to have people so afraid of getting fired that they try to cover up potential security breaches.
Only after you have a solid cybersecurity policy and training system in place will it make sense to invest in additional It security software or hardware.
The best way to save money on IT is to make sure you are investing in IT for the right reasons. IT cannot magically solve every business problem. Instead, most problems must first be addressed on a personnel, process, or system level. Once you have the basics of an effective real-world solution in place, your trusted IT consultants can come in and develop software and hardware solutions that make you more efficient and effective. It can automate many basic and administrative tasks and redirect resources to higher value activities.
This is a guest blog post by Zac Cramer, who owns IT Assurance. IT Assurance is OMEP’s newest sponsor, and Oregon’s only IT company focused on the manufacturing industry. IT Assurance provides help desk support, project management, EDI services, phone systems, and a host of other services that manufacturers need to succeed.
You can read more at itassurance.com