Many business owners would benefit from a change in thinking. How come when the delivery truck breaks down, no one bats an eye to buy a new van to get the product to market? Or when a big order needs to be processed it’s easy to hire a bunch of temporary help to meet the deadline? But if the network acts up or slows down, the team is asked to “put up with it,” or “muddle through.”
A network and other technology your business buys, leases, or otherwise hits your balance sheet month in, month out—it works for you. So when you try to use it to conduct business, and it fails, or delays you, or otherwise doesn’t work right, you pay for that, too. It’s like paying twice, and that doesn’t work for anyone. Instead make the most of your technology dollars by planning and spending strategically and reap the rewards with productivity. Here are five easy steps to do that:
1. Get a handle on what you’re actually spending. You may not even know how much you spend, or where the money hits your budget. This problem has actually been compounded by the remote-work revolution. The new work-from-home expenses for technology, such as paying for a salesperson’s upgraded laptop, home broadband service or a cell phone that accesses your network, these may be part of a large ghost spend that gets paid from personal expense accounts.
Ask Yourself: How can you understand what you’re spending on technology if you don’t have all the figures?
2. Look at the fixed costs, and how they’re trending. Do you pay for managed services each month? What about space on the cloud? Consider how you use these services, how high the amount is each month, and how it’s trending. Generally, we find, in reviewing new clients, that costs are not dropping. That can even be okay, as long as you’re happy with the service you’re getting (and have a good idea of what you’re actually paying for).
Ask Yourself: It’s easy to stand pat and pay on that managed services contract. But is it the best move for your business? After all, IT is a competitive marketplace, with one-man operations, mid-sized local players, and local offices for national and multinational corporations all competing for business. Who is going to be most responsive to your needs and have the resources to back you up when something goes wrong? At North Star, we can be responsive in ways the impersonal big guys just can’t, and we may have some insight into how your real needs can be served more efficiently than some long-term contract with a lot of extras.
3. Treat your technology like any other key part of your business. Budget for it, and proactively head off problems by developing a strategy and reviewing it regularly. Now that you know what you’re spending each month, it’s easier to plan in order to accomplish what you need to get done, such as fixing critical needs, including security and setting up a disaster recovery plan. By reviewing the plans and budget while looking forward, upgraded technology can filter to your employees who need it the most, and it will get done before the need jumps to the “critical” category.
Ask Yourself: Does this approach sound like an expensive luxury for your business? It’s more likely a smart way to spend the money you’re already allocating to technology. But instead of stopgaps and Band-Aids, it’s heading off problems and looking ahead.
4. Figure out the timing. As with anything, choosing a quicker path means higher upfront costs, but now you’re thinking about this the right way—because at least you’re thinking about it. Creating a strategy means timing and costs are all factors, and, just as you would ramp up hiring additional salespeople to capitalize on a market advantage, so you may want to advance the timeframe of capital expenditures on tech if the benefit is clear. Likewise, setbacks or lost business may move some strategic items down the priority list. The key is to think about the network and act on it, rather than just vaulting from hard-drive failure to overheating battery to the next emergency. Take control and plan ahead.
Ask Yourself: When do I start? Should I wait till the start of the year, or begin now? It’s different for every business. But with any business, the sooner you start to make a change, the faster it ends up happening. At the very least, a call to your current managed services provider could get some relief on monthly costs. Or call us, and we’ll meet with you and fill you in on the best way to approach the challenges you face.
5. What’s a good first step? A network security assessment is a good bet. We can provide network security audit for your business network, and there’s no obligation to buy any hardware or services from us. But you will have an idea of where the flaws in your network security are hiding, and can even ask your current managed services provider about these potential issues. In our experience, this step provides some motivation to figure out your strategy—and your priority list—a little more quickly.
Ask Yourself: How much is my business worth to me? It’s an important question, because ransomware and data breaches can make the question a real one. Planning for IT with a sound strategy will help protect your digital assets and your reputation more effectively. And that is worth an investment.
Contact North Star today and let us help you begin the process of making the money you spend on technology work harder for your business.