Information Technology management tends to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing for many small businesses. Unlike larger companies, most small businesses don't have the luxury of assigning a single person or setting up a department to oversee their Information Technology needs. The result is that Information Technology management for small businesses tends to be a piecemeal affair, ignored until something goes wrong with the equipment or another piece of equipment needs to be purchased.
This Information Technology Makeover will help you address this problem and get your small business's Information Technology organized. Follow the steps below to whip your Information Technology into shape.
1) Secure your business data.
"I've lost all my business records." "My business data's gone." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a small business person say this, I'd be a rich woman. The truth of the matter is that computers die, hard drives crash and laptops and Blackberries and Smartphones can be stolen. The first rule of Information Technology management is that one copy of business data is never enough; you have to secure your business data by backing it up.
So the first thing you need to do to shape up your Information Technology management is to establish a regular and effective data backup regime. Three Steps to Successful Data Backup tells you how.
You may also want to read:
What business data is critical to your business and needs to be backed up? For most small businesses, data relating to:
- Customer contacts
- Intellectual property
Your small business may have other types of data that also needs to be backed up. Basically, if losing the electronic data would cause you grief, back it up.
2) Manage your business data.
Business data needs to be two things; organized and accessible. In this Information Technology Makeover, you'll work on two aspects of Information Technology management to achieve this goal.
A) Manage Customer Contacts
At an absolute minimum, you need to have a database of customer records of some kind, which you need to keep complete and updated. Better than that is having an application that not only lets you record customer data but do things with it, such as track customer sales and preferences, create and track marketing campaigns, and track sales leads as they develop.
I use Microsoft Outlook Business Contact Manager which lets me do all these things and more, such as being able to link communication items and share information with team members.
There are, of course, other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools out there. Some of the ones I've written about or recommended include:
So have a look at how your small business is managing your customer contacts and take at least one step to improve how you are doing this.
If you don't have a contacts database established yet, set one up. If you don't need or want to do anything with your customer contacts database except make a few notes on them, something such as using the "ordinary" Contacts section of the Outlook email program will work well.
Whether you do have a contacts database already established or not, browse through the Customer Relationship Management tools I've listed above and give the one that most appeals to you a try. (Most of them offer free trials.)
If you're already using a Customer Relationship Management solution that you're happy with, excellent! Pat yourself on the back for paying attention to your Information Technology management and then sit down and spend at least an hour with your chosen program, seeing how you could use the program in a new way to increase your sales.
B) Set up a Document Management System
A document management system organizes your business data by laying out the rules for creating and storing documents and establishing procedures that make retrieving documents easier. It simplifies your life by ensuring that everyone in an office is creating and handling documents the same way, whether electronic or paper, and the beauty of it is that setting up a document management system isn't hard; it just requires sitting down, making some decisions and then publicizing them.
Read 3 Steps to Creating a Document Management System and create your own.
You may also want to read 10 File Management Tips for Electronic Files.
The Information Technology Makeover continues on the next page. Continue reading to learn how to set up a quick but effective Information Technology maintenance and crisis plan for your small business.
Looking for more of the Small Business Makeover?
- The Business Planning Makeover - create a Business Action Plan that will provide your small business direction for the coming year or longer.
- The Business Finance Makeover - Follow the steps in this business finance makeover, from separating your personal and business finances through financial statement analysis, to make sure that your business finances are in good shape.
- The Customer Service Makeover - Learn how to provide good customer service, the kind of customer service that builds customer loyalty, gives positive word-of-mouth advertising, and increases sales.