Caroline Parkinson looks at how smaller businesses can future-proof their technology investments so their systems won’t hold them back.
In spite of the dire economic forecasts that have been an almost daily occurrence over the last few months, when it comes to SMEs, research indicates that growth is still very much on the cards. A recent survey found that 80% of SME owners questioned expected moderate or substantial business growth in 2018*, a finding that is at odds with the ever-present warnings of economic doom and gloom, as well as a positive sign that businesses still feel confident enough to pursue growth strategies.
For businesses of all shapes and sizes, a key enabler of growth is technology. Where technology was once a value-add or even a nice-to-have, it’s now a primary driver of profitability and market differentiation, a fact that’s not lost on businesses, especially those who are proactively looking to expand their operations. For smaller businesses, in particular, there are a great deal of systems out there which perfectly suit the needs of a smaller organization, with the right levels of finance functionality, for example, to effectively manage a small business. But, when it comes to growing the business, trying to manage a larger company with a solution meant for a smaller organization will soon start to cause real problems, actually stunting growth and perhaps even moving the business backwards rather than forwards.
This presents a real dilemma for smaller businesses: where to put their next technology investment to ensure they select the right solution for today and for the future? If they stick with a solution designed for smaller businesses, as the business grows, management will invariably have to spend more time bridging gaps as they appear, leaving them less time to pursue strategic activities. Also, systems will more than likely become slower and less responsive, unable to deal with the ever-increasing operational demands that a larger organization presents, with reports taking longer to produce and the amount of downtime experienced potentially increasing as the business expands. If a system can’t scale to suit the increasing requirements of a growing business, this can lead to poor or inaccurate operational visibility, which ultimately leads to ineffective decision-making, something that’s sure to hamper any growth efforts further still.
What’s needed is a system that not only deals with the issues faced by a business today but a system that can grow and scale alongside the business, establishing a technology platform for continued growth. With small business functionality as standard, the right solution will grow as fast as a business needs it to, expanding its capabilities as businesses enter new markets or new territories, or to meet the challenges faced when going up against new, larger competitors, providing the scalability and flexibility to support business growth in all its guises.
It’s not just the increasing volumes of information that growing businesses need to deal with, but it’s what happens to this information too. Not only do decision-makers need information to be readily available and accurate, but for increased levels of business agility, something that becomes more difficult to achieve the larger the business becomes, the ability to analyze data quickly and effectively is a must-have. Less comprehensive solutions simply don’t provide this functionality, creating bottlenecks and slowing-down processes, procedures and decision-making, to the detriment of the business.
Solutions that foster agility, regardless of the size of the organization, are the order of the day, connecting information with customers, suppliers and partners to add value and support decision-making, even in the most unwieldy of organizations. If this is taken care of, management are then free to focus on exploiting further opportunities for growth, safe in the knowledge that their software solution is meeting their business needs as they develop and evolve, instilling greater rigor and diligence across the organization without constantly having to invest in more comprehensive solutions every time the business takes a step forward.
Rather than investing in different systems to suit the different stages of your business’s growth, going through sometimes painful, not to mention costly, installs and implementations, the best advice is to invest once but invest wisely, putting your money into a robust, scalable platform to support long-term growth.
For more information on how Sapphire can help you fulfill your business growth potential, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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