How digital can help you increase productivity and drive efficiencies

26 October 2015
Managing your systems

Getting a website online, getting the right software to suit your business, and finding suppliers you’re happy to deal with does not mean the job of managing your online business is done.

Savvy digital businesses need to put systems in place to:

  • manage their online presence.
  • ensure the systems they use are still relevant.
  • keep track of suppliers.
  • keep track of customer movement and responses.
  • update hardware and software as it becomes necessary.
  • continue to redevelop web content and keep pace with technological changes.

What IT departments do

A fully-functioning information technology (IT) department should be able to carry out all of the above.

Generally speaking, the IT department in a business is responsible for the management of systems relating to:

  • websites.
  • internet service providers (ISP).
  • servers  and networks.
  • computer and associated hardware.
  • software.
  • internal and external web security.

A business with an IT department would expect this department to take care of:

  • Governance:  Managing the operating parameters for staff use of the IT systems, networks and architecture, and governance of the key business data of the company.
  • Infrastructure:  Managing the operating network and all hardware needed to make the IT system work in accordance with an established operating standard and system “size”.
  • Functionality: Managing the operation of applications development, storing and securing electronic information and other important data that the business owns, and providing direct operating assistance in software use and data management to all functional areas in the business.

Find the right experts

If you are a start-up, a sole operator, or someone with few staff, the expense of even the recruitment drive for the right IT professionals within your business may be too far out of scope, let alone their ongoing wages. Perhaps you can find someone to assist you part-time until you expand further.

But if your business has more than five staff and runs various software tools and computer-based management systems, it makes sense that you would need at least one IT-specialist staff member on your books.

In saying that, in today’s global business environment, outsourcing and virtual staff arrangements can cut overheads and make plenty of business sense to up-and-coming companies.

Outsourcing your IT needs

Most small-to-medium enterprises will need to outsource their web hosting, server and possibly their website management in the first place, so it makes sense that the staff member who manages these systems and processes is also an outside contractor.

From a monetary perspective, outsourcing your IT department can make sound economic sense to the modern-day business.

The biggest risks of outsourcing

Before we go into the pros of outsourcing your IT management, it pays to acknowledge the biggest risk involved with such an arrangement – the protection of your critical data and private business and personal information.

Entrusting critical business data and information to an outside organisation is a big decision for a business of any size.

While there is some type of “leap of faith” involved with making the initial decision to outsource any business need, there are some measures you can take to ensure you make this decision as safely as possible.

  • Hire a well-known and credible IT management company or professional, with proven experience overseeing the IT needs of businesses of a similar size to yours.
  • Ensure the company chosen to manage your IT systems as part of an outsourced model has signed and returned a non-disclosure document. With this in place, the outsourced talent is obligated to keep your business and personal information confidential and not use it for any purpose other than their role as your IT manager.
  • Clearly outline the role of this person/s, so there can be no misunderstanding about their job requirements or what you need them to oversee/manage or take responsibility for.
  • Create a web services agreement – this will be signed by both parties to clarify each party’s rights and obligations throughout the course of the business transaction for these IT management services.

It makes sense to have a qualified legal professional ensure you have covered all bases before you hand over the keys to an IT management professional to keep check on your digital systems and procedures.

Go virtual

An outsourced staff member may meet with you and your business constituents very rarely – it is even possible they are located in another city altogether.

These days, it is possible to build an entire business team virtually, thanks to the perks of modern technology and the interconnectivity of the internet and online applications.

While it is useful to work with staff close by for the purpose of building rapport and ensuring that time zones and geographical distances are not an issue, small-to-medium businesses just starting out in the digital space may find success in building several members of their business team virtually.

Find out more about the dos and don’ts of building your own virtual business team.

Supply chain automation

The words “supply chain” often conjure up images of a conveyer belt overflowing with goods, possibly with blockages where certain products have piled up, or running so smoothly that each product is neatly boxed and stacked in readiness for its purchase and shipping.

Before the advent of digital supply chain automation technology, the above scenario was very much the way it panned out for businesses providing products to their customers – and it isn’t hard to imagine that the supply and demand balance was often hard to predict in such a scenario.

These days computerised algorithms can control the flow of a business’s products from their manufacture to the arrival on the doorstep of a happy customer.

Digital supply chain automation that works well will virtually eliminate waste, and will cut manufacturing or distribution costs down to exactly where they need to be to make ends meet and exceed expectations.

Software to remove the guesswork 

Supply chain software, if applied and used correctly, will make a business more:

  • Efficient
  • Effective
  • Profitable

In a nutshell, this software will measure and calculate your business output needs to ensure that stock is available to fill orders when they come in, but without the cost of reaching surplus.

Some supply chain automation technologies are even able to use data they input from the business to forecast the amount of orders the business is likely to have, when stock will arrive and in what quantity.

For supply chain automation to be this successful, the business will need to make portions of its business data visible to suppliers, distributors and possibly even its customer base.

This adds a whole new dimension to its competitive strategy needs, but the reality is that customers doing business online value being able to check the delivery status of a product they have ordered, track its postage (possibly across the world) and predetermine when they will be holding it in their hands.

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