By Charles Edge of JAMF Software
Every company at some point needs to harness its technology. These days, a good Internet connection and some smart choices will have any company humming along with tools that help the business.
(Photo courtesy of JAMF Software)
But it’s also important to reevaluate your strategy from time to time to ensure that you are making the most from your processes and investments. As 2016 continues to speed along, now is great time to step back to identify what’s working and what can be done better. The following are ten resolutions for small businesses to consider as you look for new ways to improve upon, save money from, and benefit from your IT.
1. Re-Examine Your Cloud Use
Some of your stuff is in the cloud – it could be a server filling a couple minor roles in your organization, or local files for your QuickBooks environment. Most organizations have moved at least some of their assets into a cloud service. Given this, now is a great opportunity to explore any gaps in this strategy.
If you’re in retail, this might be getting rid of a final server and completing the POS-to-the-cloud migration so you can just focus on a few iPads as terminals. If you’re in film, it might be foregoing an old, decrepit mail server that keeps bouncing messages from customers. Either way, it’s worth looking at every app to get all of your data into an appropriate cloud-based service — and a modern one, at that.
2. Connect The Clouds
With most organizations having data in multiple cloud services, the big focus today is connecting these services. For a delivery company, this might mean that its logistics apps can talk to its invoicing app so that no one needs to fill out a piece of paper or do any manual data entry. To take it a step further, data could be cross-referenced against purchasing records for trend analysis on how much product to keep in stock – the possibilities are endless!
You might be doing some of this already, using spreadsheets, but in the latest wave of analytics, the move is to connect a lot of disparate data sources and to provide businesses with more real-time insight into their organizations. This year, we recommend looking into analytics. Start with Birst, Gooddata, and the Dun & Bradstreet Cloud Innovation Center for some solutions that can help.
3. Become A Consumer
Another great aspect of having so much of your data in the cloud is that your employees are free to use their device of choice. While BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies have grown less important the past couple of years, given that logistical challenges around are becoming more apparent, there are different pivots to this strategy implemented all over the place today.
If you’ve traditionally been an Apple or Microsoft shop, and your employees want to use Android, then by all means, let them. That is, if they’re supporting their own devices. By allowing your employees to choose whatever experience they’d like via their device of choice, you’re more likely to keep them engaged. If you haven’t yet, investigate BYOD and other types of employee choice strategies for your organization.
4. Research All The Things!
In what ways are your competitors using technology as a competitive advantage? Those of us who design and sell products are always looking to hear about our customers’ successes. No matter what your industry is, there are going to be users who talk about your product via social media and sometimes in comparison to your competition. It’s great to be aware of the chatter around your product, along with the ideas and suggestions being shared, and pick what fits into your business model. Some great tools to help monitor the social media conversations taking place around your company include Trackmaven and Owly.
In the age of constant security threats, all small businesses need to be proactive in protecting their assets – both in the cloud and locally on devices. Are you using a lot of cloud services, but still need federated security across them? Check out Okta. Are you trying to ensure security across multiple devices? Check out Bushel. Utilizing a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution lets you take advantage of functions that can save the day in the worst-case scenarios. Imagine the problems you can avoid by requiring passwords on your devices and being able to wipe data remotely off a device if it is lost.
It’s time to ensure that every single device that has data, or an important configuration that your business relies on, is backed up. Do you have a firewall and a wireless access point? Each time the configuration is changed for those devices, get a quick backup. Do you have a website? Make sure you can pay your host, or better, have a copy of the site backed up to your office or another cloud provider. Don’t forget about the database and any custom libraries if it’s a pretty complicated site.
Don’t forget to back up your desktops, laptops, smart phones, and tablets too. Notice that backing up your firewalls is all about getting services up and running quickly in the event of a failure. Check out Crashplan to backup your desktops and laptops. And start with your vendors for backing up settings on appliances.
7. Connect All The Peoples
I’m constantly amazed by how many people are still using traditional email (POP and IMAP), and not sharing contacts and calendars. Today, the expectation is being able to delegate schedules, view a coworker’s contacts (if shared), and even have mailboxes that are shared between employees. If you haven’t yet, make sure to use the modern world of Groupware to connect your employees, their calendars, contacts, and even their task lists and notes. Many of these can be obtained in a single solution, such as Google Apps or Office 365.
8. Renegotiate Everything
Even if you have a few months left on your Internet access contract, it’s still worth trying to have the cost reduced. All it takes is a quick phone call, and the worst thing that can happen is your provider saying “no.” While you’re at it, call your cloud vendors and ask them for discounts as well. Again, it can’t really hurt, and any money that you save can be dedicated to budget for other systems that help the organization. Like moving time tracking to the cloud with a tool like Deputy, or move those pesky email lists off your server and into a tool like Constant Contact.
9. Focus On Workflow
We mentioned getting data into the cloud so that you can analyze it. You can also use the interconnection between cloud services (and local apps if you mainly use those) to automate workflow. For example, if someone enters information into a Student Information System (SIS), there’s no reason to enter that exact same data into a directory services solution such as Microsoft’s Active Directory as well. And no one should need to manually create student accounts in Google Apps.
10. Get The Word Out
As a small business, it’s important to get the word out to help drive new customers and growth. Part of that involves taking a close look at your digital presence. This involves using SEO, content creation, search, social media accounts, and maybe even more direct interaction with potential customers. For example, if you’re a restaurant, are you listed on Yahoo, Google, Bing, Yelp, etc.? Does your organization post videos on YouTube? Does your business have a blog? Is your menu online and listed on those services? It’s also worth exploring solutions like Belly to start a loyalty program and Clover for gift cards.
This article is written and provided by Charles Edge. Charles is the Director of Professional Services at JAMF Software, where he leads Bushel, a mobile device management (MDM) solution designed for small organizations and users with limited IT experience. He holds nearly 20 years experience as a developer, administrator and CTO, and is passionate about helping every day users manage and make the most of their mobile devices.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the author.