Although the calendar year is winding down, for many small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) it’s planning season for the year ahead. From a technology perspective, it’s all about ending the year without any issues – some may consider a technology freeze to avoid any risk to year-end processing – and ensuring the business has everything needed to start the new year strong.
We compiled some universal considerations that all businesses in the SMB community should focus on during the last three months of the year, regardless of their field, offering or sector.
Redundancies In the Existing Technology Stack
Many small and medium-sized businesses use this time of year to begin examining their technology spending for the year ahead, including operations and labor costs. Before completing any budgets, first check for redundancies in existing technologies. By merging the technology stack, SMB can achieve near-term efficiency and improved collaboration while avoiding multiple vendor fees. When it comes to applications, less is more. Every SMB leader should include application rationalization in their plans. In current market conditions, with many vendors moving to subscriptions models, it’s even more important to look at this. Review all applications to decide if they’re used and how much. Is the business paying for Microsoft Teams and Zoom? Retire applications if they’re not in use and, if they are, figure out how much and by whom. It’s an opportunity to reduce the number of licenses the company is paying for and introduce standards across the company.
Pay Attention to New Trends in Technology
Right now is the time to focus on the technology strategy for the upcoming year. Business leaders must ensure the company is ready to take on whatever challenges come its way. That means keeping an eye out for current trends in technology, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), and making sure the business is ready to adopt them when they make sense for the organization. SMB must measure the ROI of their fourth-quarter initiatives by comparing the impact of various technologies on concrete business targets. The technique must show an obvious “before and after” effect to call for the cost. Strong data analytics are necessary for success in this area.
Reconcile Outstanding Projects
During Q4, business leaders should take stock of the first three quarters of the year and evaluate what was achieved, what was done well and what could use improvement. Q4 is a good opportunity to wrap up what was started earlier in the year and decide if it’s time to cut bait and move on or put the effort in to close these projects. Resources are not endless and one of the greatest morale killers is an endless project that doesn’t have the bona fide support of management. Freeing up time and resources to start the new year with the latest ideas and new projects is a fantastic way to motivate and reenergize the team.
One essential thing business leaders must do is ensure their team has the capacity to execute plans. This means having the right mix of resources, including technical ability, project management experience and adequate staffing levels to bring those initiatives over the finish line. Remain mindful of burnout and year-end vacations. It’s tempting to release something flashy at the end of the year, but it’s likely the team is expecting some well-deserved time off. Try to keep Q4 as light as possible; deliver quick wins but leave the heavy stuff for Q1. The current shortage of professionals with leadership and management skills is getting more acute with the widespread labor shortage. Business leaders need to create a team of leaders who can adjust and overcome. Leaders should also consider whether they have the internal capabilities to execute plans or if they need to outsource some or all the work.
Conduct A Cybersecurity Assessment
Cybersecurity is a critical part to successful year-end planning. Every SMB leader must ask if the company is adequately protected, including systems, data and business reputation. Cyber threats are growing at an exponential rate. Failure to continuously assess the risk against the company and the corresponding safeguards is a failure of the highest order. In fact, some states may consider it maleficence to blatantly ignore the growing cyber threats against this country’s businesses. Cybersecurity fitness includes proper training for the staff, adopting best practices and conducting routine audits. Q4 is the perfect time to plan for the following year to ensure training, testing, remediation and review are all accomplished.
Technology is innovating faster than ever, but many SMB organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to technology adoption, creating challenges and slowing growth. Roark Tech Services is the perfect partner for small and medium-sized businesses that want to understand how to perfect their technology investments. We understand the necessary approach, the fit-for-purpose need and the critical nature technology plays in every business. We are experts in the field and are uniquely qualified to help the SMB community stay safe & competitive. 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.