Navigating the Technology Challenges of a Growing Business

May 15, 2019 - AlasConnect

Man looking at a higher peak from a plateau

Perhaps you started your company as a small and scrappy organization, ready to take on the world. Through hard work and good fortune you’ve seen your business grow, onboarded customers and added revenue. Unfortunately, as is often the case, with success comes rewards and new challenges in equal measure.

One area that can be particularly difficult in a growing business is scaling your technology systems gracefully, while avoiding re-buying, over-buying and the dreaded “fork lift” upgrade.

A familiar story

When you only had a small handful of employees, there was one person in the office who had some technical abilities and you leaned on them to help you setup your technology systems including what to buy and how to configure it all. They did an admirable job, your business succeeded, but being the go to “IT Person” for the office really wasn’t their core role in the company. Over time, as you’ve grown the business, more and more of their time is spent on simply dealing with day to day IT problems.

Perhaps someone’s PC is responding slowly and another person needs help with how to use a specific software product. Before too long it is the end of the day and all your “IT Person” was able to achieve was barely keeping their head above water, let alone tackling all of the other responsibilities you actually hired them to do or even plan for the future growth of the company.

We have talked about the Risks of In House IT in the past and all of these issues still do apply.

Tackling the next peak

To tackle the next peak and gracefully evolve your business into its next incarnation, you need to build a strong technology foundation.

  • Technology Plan - Do you know how your applications, business processes and systems will scale up? Developing a strategic technology plan will enable you to measure, control and plan the success of your technology systems against your business goals.
  • Information Security - Often neglected, the threat landscape facing modern businesses poses an extreme challenge. Developing a rigorous information security practice and culture within your organization differentiates you from your competition while safeguarding your business. Security culture does not come without some growing pains, as what was once “easy” is now “risky”. Striking a balance between expedience and security is a difficult challenge, but becomes impossible to manage without a strong security practice built in to the organization.
  • Budget Control - In small companies the mantra of “move quickly to solve problems” often means that technology purchases occur in an ad-hoc fashion, often on individual credit cards. Unfortunately, while this approach works (sometimes) in smaller organizations, the costs of technology spending run amok can quickly becoming crippling to future growth if they are not reined in quickly.
  • Business Intelligence - Developing effective reports based on actionable metrics and fostering a strong data science culture is a key attribute of successful organizations. Unfortunately many businesses become lost quickly in a quagmire of useless data and meaningless reports. It is not adequate to simply collect and present data, you have to actually be able to drive insights from the metrics to be of any utility.
  • Enfranchisement of Users - Many internal IT Support organizations have a bad reputation. Whether they are slow to respond, caustic to their peers or simply uninterested in moving the business forward, the end result is the same in that technology becomes a liability rather than the strategic asset it should be. Often times your non-IT employees will be left feeling “held captive” by the whims of the IT Department. Employing an IT organization with a deep empathy for end users, understanding of core business and a passion for the vision of your company will set the correct culture to ensure successful deployment of technology systems.

Avoid anti-patterns

There are many negative tropes in modern culture about IT workers, and unfortunately some of them are well earned by past experience. However, you can and should avoid these organizational anti-patterns, otherwise you might end up inadvertently providing the plot for the next episode of the IT Crowd:

  • Deaf - Failing to hear the urgency of a request or the core nature of that request is a cardinal sin in IT support. Ensure your IT support actively listens to the nature of a problem before jumping to a conclusion about how to resolve it.
  • Dumb - Failing to communicate problems in advance whether related to performance, security threats or budget can leave you exposed. Require proactive, respectful, honest and direct communication with your IT support team.
  • Blind - Failing to look for problems and determine root causes dooms an organization to continue to re-live the same problems again and again. To avoid this “Groundhog’s Day” scenario, make sure your IT support team is actively monitoring your systems, scanning for vulnerabilities, and performing regular maintenance on your technology systems.

AlasConnect is a technology consulting company focusing on businesses in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. If you are looking to scale up your business technology gracefully or are finding IT issues to be a distraction to growing your business, please contact us for an assessment of your IT structure. We offer an array of tailored services to help take the complexity out of scaling up.