Every day, customers expect to enjoy greater convenience, bigger savings, and more delightful experiences from the businesses they deal with. Amazon’s one-click shopping, PayPal’s secure payments, and Walmart’s free store pickup for online orders are but just a few examples of information technology (IT) innovations that raise the bar for entire industries. In a word, IT is becoming more and more crucial for business success, as the ones who can implement operational efficiencies and adopt advanced capabilities ultimately serve customers better.
IT as competitive advantage
Let’s look into the competitive advantages that IT provides businesses by hypothetically comparing nonprofit organizations — ones that are similar to A Kid Again, an organization that hosts vacations for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses and need reprieve from the dreary routine of medical care.
- Nonprofit A uses its online fundraising portal successfully, but it has trouble tracking crucial information updates, such as changes in donor information, beneficiary information, volunteer phone numbers, and affiliate program details;
- Nonprofit B has an amazing fundraising portal and a customer relationship management (CRM) database that is updated in real time, but its call center agents and couriers depend on walkie-talkies and outdated phones to receive urgent communiqués; and
- Nonprofit C has a custom IT solution for its operational needs, such as donor portals for both desktop and mobile devices, virtual offices that allow personnel access to their PCs during out-of-office fundraising events, and VoIP phones that enable agents to do video conferencing as well as push live CRM updates to office staff and volunteers.
With the given information, it's not hard to imagine nonprofit C capturing more donors and serving more beneficiaries compared to nonprofits A and B.
Tech-savvy businesses may have an advantage over those that are not, but the fact is, not every new gadget or IT solution will help the bottom line. Business owners must think critically about which solutions will help their teams operate more smoothly and more cost-efficiently. This is especially true with IT, as systems can be expensive to build and stricter customer privacy becomes the law all over the world.
Not all IT solutions are created equal...
...nor are they supposed to be one-size-fits-all. As no two businesses are exactly alike, their operational requirements will be different as well. Therefore, the best solutions are those that are customized towards fulfilling a firm’s business objectives. For example, high-tech healthcare institutions now utilize top-of-the-line software such as Epic and NextGen, as well as gadgets such as tablets that allow caregivers to access and update patients’ medical records.
However, you may need expert IT support if you want to connect such software and devices with CRM systems and cloud services, among others. A run-of-the-mill IT service agency will fail companies with healthcare industry-specific needs because it won’t have the expertise required to comply with regulations such as HIPAA and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
Niche businesses need industry-specific support to properly and optimally implement the IT solutions they need. This is even more crucial for SMBs that don’t have IT as part of their core competencies or have the budget to house their very own full-time IT staff. Fortunately, specialized managed service providers exist so that SMBs can enjoy IT solutions that are very much aligned with their business objectives.
Keep it simple, sweetie
When looking for a managed IT services provider, pay close attention to the ones that follow the KISS (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) principle. Avoid agencies that make themselves sound smart (and make you feel stupid) with esoteric terminology and sell you complex services that you don’t need.
The agency that has your best interests in mind will engage you in a detailed consultation to:
- accurately identify your business needs;
- recommend the best IT tools and strategies to fulfill these requirements; and
- show how the proposed tools and strategies contribute towards operational and/or cost efficiencies.
Business-IT alignment simplifies business
A subpar agency may throw terms around such as “cloud technology” and “virtual offices” without explaining them, much less justify why your firm actually needs them. Sad to say, this type of agency is usually more focused on reaching its sales quota instead of your firm's best interests. Instead of blanket statements like "Industry leaders are on the cloud, so you need the cloud too," great IT providers take the time to meet with you and ask specific questions. Asking things like, "What tasks do your employees need to complete remotely?" leads to insightful conversations about how IT solutions can best align with your business goals. This type of IT consulting is well within the budgetary scope of small businesses and is the first step toward fully customized technology solutions.
Business-IT alignment saves money
Nowadays, software is obtained through affordable pay-as-you-go subscriptions instead of prohibitively expensive perpetual licenses. With this model, IT experts can work out which software mix is right for you based on your employee needs, customer expectations, legal obligations, and budgetary constraints. Moreover, information technology specialists can make adjustments to your IT systems when business needs shift (as they often do). This customizability and adaptability allow you to be more cost-effective and avoid money-draining mistakes along the way.
Don’t fret if you can’t set up an in-house IT department
Thanks to countless advancements in IT, you can outsource IT-related functions that are specific to your industry, you’ll feel as though you had your very own IT department in house. For services that will make your business more efficient in terms of costs and processes, turn to Arnet Technologies. Contact us to learn more about how you can reap the benefits of optimized business-IT alignment today!