Today's post is a practical guide to building a strong technology foundation that will carry any small business through the uncertainty ahead. Connectivity, Security, Communications and Collaboration are the foundation that allow small businesses to thrive in 2022, and beyond.
Remote / In Person or Hybrid The pandemic changed the world. It was such a seismic event that people now reference time as before the pandemic and after. Whether you agree, disagree or don't care, businesses of all sizes will learn to adapt or fade away. Before the pandemic, small businesses reported that 22% of their workforce was remote. Once the pandemic hit, that number more than doubled. While we expect to see employees return to the workplace at higher numbers in 2023, remote work and hybrid models are here to stay for many businesses. Whichever approach works best for your business, there are a number of technology options to consider.
Connectivity Today, every business needs reliable connectivity. Whether it's for real-time communication, video conferencing (Zoom), or online collaboration, bandwidth limitations could leave a business unprepared, embarrassed and uncompetitive.
Security Small businesses do not have big business cybersecurity budgets, but they are exposed to the same threats. A strong small business cybersecurity stance comes through technology, education, and defined policies.
Formally train employees
Automate monitoring of critical systems
Adopt two-factor authentication, patch management and VPN use
Enact policies that require strong passwords and acceptable use of systems
Put cybersecurity safeguards in writing
Even in an increasingly digital world, people need to communicate in real-time to get things done. Missed calls, unanswered emails and protracted acknowledgement tarnish a reputation in a time when competition is waiting to take your clients. Use technology to ensure your business never misses a call, a voicemail or an email.
Make communications a priority for your team and clients will appreciate it.
In 2020 many businesses adapted to remote work. Schools adapted to remote learning. In 2022, it's clear that while remote access is a convenience and perhaps a cost saver, it alters the experience significantly for workers, students and management. Make no mistake, it will prove very difficult over the next generation to convince people to return to the office full time, but the need to collaborate in real time, with corresponding body language, eye contact, impromptu conversations and an absence of [home] distractions are powerful motivators for small businesses, especially those looking to grow, groom talent and expand their base. No matter what the future holds, the businesses that adapt to the changing landscape will succeed and those that do not will surely suffer and maybe fail.
If you build it, they will come. From a technology perspective, now is the most practical time for many small businesses to evaluate the four corners of their technology investment and take the steps to keep the business secure, productive and safe. Don't forget Disaster Recovery and the Customer Experience.
Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity
Disasters can take many forms. The financial cost of rebuilding after a disaster can prove overwhelming for a small business. If a business is not prepared for an emergency or disaster, there is good chance the business will not continue operations and never recover. Statistics say that 25% of businesses don’t open again after a disaster. Every business has unique vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Knowing the disaster scenarios that are most likely to occur and affect the business can help speed a return to operations (“RTO”) faster.
A back-to-business self-assessment can help understand the risks for common hazards such as hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, or even cyberattacks. Once an assessment is made, it’s time to create a response plan based on the unique risks to the business. A response plan is a roadmap to recovery that is specific a business’s needs and operations. It addresses immediate priorities and accounts for contingency and timelines, which is important when managing client expectations. A small business should practice the response plan with the staff on a regular basis, at least once a year, to ensure everyone is ready when a disaster occurs.
The Customer/Client Experience
Technology not only enables more personalized interaction with customers, but also enhances the accessibility and consistency of the entire customer experience, or “CX”. Technology is no longer just a nice-to-have, but an integral part of creating an innovative customer experience that enables more efficient and effective service delivery. For any small business, from accounting to legal to a “Mom-and-Pop” store, the customer experience is critical toward reviews, “likes” and word-of-mouth referrals. Technology accounts for interaction, whether through email, chat, website, social media or telephone. If that interaction breaks down at any point, a customer or potential customer, will certainly go elsewhere. The customer experience is not a new concept, but it’s one that is growing in importance every day. As steeper competition for brand attention becomes the norm, the interaction a customer has with a business becomes more important. Now is a suitable time to examine the tools in place that contribute to the customer experience and decide if change is needed to maximize the benefit of technology. Some of the ways small businesses are successfully harnessing technology to support their customer’s experience are:
Roark Tech Services is well positioned to make the best suggestions and recommendations for our clients when it comes to establishing a solid technology foundation. Always consult with us first. If you don’t have an IT Partner that you can trust to give you the right support and advice, we’d love to help. Contact Us.