When putting together your business plan, you are really putting several plans together into one cohesive description of the business as you visualize it. Usually, there is good, detailed marketing planning, capital planning, financial planning, etc. One of the areas often given inadequate thought however, is the business’s IT needs.
I think that this lack of detailed planning for IT is a result of the lack of needed knowledge. This is why outside help is needed for planning.
I have used consultants for help in areas where I knew that I lacked the skill set, or the NEED to do things myself. There are many areas where as a small business owner you should engage an outsider to help so that you can focus on your critical 20%.
When it comes to selecting IT products for your business, getting familiar with technology by doing research is a “must”. As an owner, you need to understand what IT products and services are required and which are not.
Questions to be considered include: What software will your business need? Should the business use a file server environment now, or in the future? How much data will be processed and stored? Where should the data be stored – locally or in the cloud? Should you set up a server environment? What appears to be the proper computers for your business? What kind of monitors will your staff need to be productive? Will much copying be done? Should a multi-function copier be considered? Do you need a phone system? These kinds of questions all need to be clearly answered.
I recommend that you talk with knowledgeable friends, relatives, your accountant, an IT consultant, etc. to see what their thoughts are regarding your questions. Then, based on your discussions and research, you should prepare a list of the kinds of IT equipment you think you need.
Next, I would do research on local, reputable IT retailers and select one or more to discuss your needs with them to get recommendations, including alternatives.
A good sales consultant will help answer these kinds of important questions. The answers will then help you assess the financial resources needed to get the right hardware and software into the company. Missteps at this point may have serious financial consequences. However, proper planning for IT support will provide a solid base for growth.
Providing a base for growth is an important consideration. Too often, decisions in a new, small business are driven entirely by cash considerations. Cash, of course, is extremely important for a new business, but short changing IT needs could be very costly.
An example. A family friend started a new logistics business. He came to us for some advice, since he and his partner were planning for incredible growth over the coming five years. Our recommendations were quite different from what they planned. But, they had done enough research to enable themselves to understand, and in the end, go with our proposals. Their actual growth exceeded their already aggressive plans by several fold. Since they had a very sound IT base, they were able to easily add what was needed. Their careful planning paid off handsomely.