As your business grows, you’ll need all the advantages you can get to keep up with your increased workload. Your technological infrastructure must grow too–and quickly. Alongside any investment you make in equipment, software, or services, you need the assurance that it can scale up seamlessly with your business.
Better yet, the right technology can actually facilitate growth, rather than just keeping pace with your company’s growth. Here are five things your business needs to support and promote your growth.
High-speed, business-class internet is a necessity for any company committed to growth. It boosts your productivity, supports necessary applications and communications, and even increases customer satisfaction.
Broadband is fast and reliable, providing the kind of high-quality connection you need to support not only many users’ email and internet usage, but also Voice over IP (VoIP) phone technology, video conferencing, uploads/downloads of vital files, cloud-based computing applications, and much more.
2. Managed IT Services
If your company is in a period of rapid growth, you likely don’t have the time or the expertise to handle your ever-more complex IT needs. Who does? A managed services provider.
A managed services provider addresses day-to-day IT issues, protects your network and assets from threats, maintains and monitors your system, and helps you plan for future technological needs…all elements you need in place to ensure your network grows along with you.
“Companies managing a complex in-house technology infrastructure or providing a web-based service are likely to stumble.
Don’t attempt to add servers on a piecemeal basis when growth is happening quickly. Outsource the operation to a company that knows what it’s doing and which makes managed services its business,” recommends Maria Merrick in “The Art of Scaling Your Business.” By bringing on a managed services provider, you free your in-house IT employees up to focus on mission-centric responsibilities while leaving the additional responsibilities in the capable hands of your provider.
3. Voice Over IP (VoIP)
Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP) technology uses your existing data lines to send audio over the internet. Since the data lines you’re using for broadband are already in place, there’s no equipment or lines to install. A VoIP system scales up with very little effort or cost, and no disturbance to your operations: it’s just a matter of requesting and paying for additional virtual connections or increased broadband from your provider.
VoIP typically provides high quality calls (although this is dependent on the speed and reliability of your internet connection) at a low cost. VoIP offers the same features of a traditional landline phone system–such as call waiting, call hunting, voicemail, conference calling, and the like–plus videoconferencing and the ability to directly call an employee’s home computer or mobile device when working remotely.
If your provider hosts your VoIP (as opposed to running it over your business’s own IP), the high level of redundancy provided by the cloud means that service outages are extremely rare. You can configure your VoIP service to reroute calls to your mobile phone or other alternate number in the unlikely event of an outage so that your customers are always able to reach you.
4. Cloud-Based Applications
Cloud applications allow employees to access needed files and programs from anywhere, as well as collaborate with colleagues remotely. Cloud-based apps with a wide range of uses (collaboration and communication, inventory, design, and many others) are superseding programs tethered to a specific computer or network.
In addition to offering convenience and data backup, cloud-based applications frequently perform several tasks which before required multiple programs. Consolidate tasks and ditch outdated software by carefully selecting cloud-based apps that work double-time for your business.
Cloud computing also helps you keep up with–or even gain an edge over–competitors. According to an Intuit study entitled “Small Business Success in the Cloud,” last year 37% of small businesses were “fully adapted to the cloud,” but that number is growing quickly. 78% of small businesses are expected to be cloud-acclimated by 2020. Don’t get left behind!
Automate as many routine tasks as you can to cut costs and save precious time. These tasks may include everything from invoicing and paying bills to scheduling social media updates and email campaigns to managing customer support requests.
In “How to Automate Your Business for Fast Growth,” Randy Clark recommends, “Automate the easiest processes first. Pick rote tasks where there is no human value-add.” He also advises to “start small”: pick one or two tasks in which automation will provide a large ROI. Once these initial tasks are automated, you can move on to the next few.
What You Can Do Right Now
Rapid growth requires robust technology to support it. Begin upgrading your tech today to jump start your growth. Here’s how:
- Still using a traditional landline phone system? Look into whether your internet provider offers VoIP options. You’ll save money and gain flexibility by making the switch.
- Consider which types of cloud-based applications make the most sense for your business–inventory management, invoicing and accounting, collaboration solutions, even a virtual office environment. Many applications offer a free trial, so once you’ve narrowed down your options to one or two favorites, take them for a spin before committing.
- Ask employees where routine processes could be streamlined or eliminated altogether by automating them.