IT – why you’ve gotta have a plan

You may not find it very interesting and you probably don’t even spare it a thought much of the time – but I’m pretty sure that, if you’ve got a small business, IT is right at the heart of it.

Do you run your accounts and payroll on standard software like Sage or Quickbooks? Do you have a website, use social media, email your customers and suppliers? How do you monitor your stock, keep track of sales, order new supplies?

Thought so. It may be dull but IT is an essential part of what makes your business tick.

So why, if you are like 97% of the respondents to our recent survey on small businesses’ attitudes to IT, do you not have a proper budget for it?

At First Line Support, where I am Managing Director, we recently surveyed 200 small businesses about their attitudes to IT.

We discovered that 52% of respondents thought that IT was an essential and continuous investment for their businesses. A further 20% admitted that they weren’t interested in IT personally, but knew that having the right IT mattered. Which is fair enough: small business owners do not have to take personal charge of absolutely everything, as long as they have assigned people and budget to make sure that everything works the way it is supposed to.

But of all the 200 business owners we surveyed, only 3% – that’s six companies ‒ budgeted for their IT spend.

So why do you need to plan?

  1. Prevention is better than cure. You need to allow for ongoing maintenance of your system, especially software updates to keep it running smoothly. You need to back-up your data regularly, keep anti-virus software up to date, keep all hardware and software up to date for that matter, and check that your hardware doesn’t get damaged or is close to failure. Doing this is better, and cheaper, than waiting for the whole system to crash and then paying out in a panic for someone to come in and restore it for you.
  2. Impulse purchases never work out well. If you suddenly find yourself with some spare cash, it can be tempting to splash out on the latest gadget, especially if it’s on special offer. But the newest kit may not be compatible with your existing system – and if you’re a dedicated early-adopter you might well find that you’ve jumped the gun with a product that requires more specialist IT support than you bargained for.
  3. Big purchases cost a lot of money. If you’ve got to make a big purchase, such as replacing your server, the chances are that you’ll want to spread the cost over a couple of financial years and make sure that you’ve got cash available at the right time.
  4. You have to keep up with changes in your business. If you’re busy rearranging your workforce so that half of them can work from home, for example, you have to make sure that you have the IT systems in place to support them. You might want to buy them all laptops, move to a cloud-based system, and sort out a new telephone system. These changes can’t be made overnight – you have to plan for them.

Planning itself does not have to be expensive. There is plenty of low-cost and even free advice out there – a good place to start might be your local IT support company, who can probably offer support packages to fit any size of company. And your overall budget does not have to be huge – but if it’s properly planned and spending ringfenced, you can rest easy that, whatever else happens, your IT will continue to be there to keep your business going.

Learn more about our approach

If you'd like to know more about how we support our clients, why not download "Our approach to providing IT support"

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