Normal business pressures make it hard for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) like yours to stand back and investigate how you view and use information and communications technology (ICT). It’s almost certainly harder to find out how your peers and competitors make similar use of ICT.
The good news for you is that Computer Weekly (CW), in association with BT, knows precisely what the ICT issues are in companies such as yours, thanks to an exclusive audit of the UK’s SME community carried out in October. From the audit, some findings were very apparent: most companies like yours have very clear ideas about what ICT can do for your businesses, but a significant number do not have any formal strategy with which to realise these plans. A fundamental requirement is that ICT has to be aligned to your business needs to be successful. Thus your company has to be aware of the business management issues that relate to ICT.
Any effective ICT implementation will place an extra burden on your existing network infrastructure and so there will be significant network management issues that you need to face up to so that you get the best from your ICT investment. Be assured that there exists a number of technologies that will help you in this area.
Yet you and your business need also to face up to your financial responsibilities. By virtue of your company’s size, you will most likely not be in the position to recover quickly from ostentatious expenditure. It is imperative that you quantify the cost of ICT, looking at the total cost of ownership. It is also incumbent on you to calculate a well-defined return on investment path.
In calculating these issues you must factor in the cost of supporting a robust and reliable infrastructure. This means being aware of, and investing in, the latest security technology that can protect your business from internal and external threats. It also means, in a growing number of cases, the ability to protect your revenue streams. A good example is to support transactional online offerings in an effective and secure manner.
Then there’s the thorny issue of how you are going to make sure that your staff are capable of realising the benefits of ICT. You should have a clear idea of what strategies you can adopt with regard to training, understanding who in your company decides on training and where training resources are employed with respect to your overall strategy.
Regulatory issues will also affect your ICT requirements. The government’s flexible working initiative will theoretically change the way in which all firms practise their trade. What ramifications will there be from this legislation for companies like yours? What will it mean for your ICT department to support home working? More important are the legal and regulatory issues that could seriously affect the basic running of your company. You should know about the ramifications of the Data Protection Act, both in terms of process and technology. You should know the penalties for misuse of the internet and email, and you should be aware of what a failure to audit your ICT resources could lead to.
This supplement will look in depth at all of these issues. We will offer you knowledge of the essential business management practices that will enable you to make best use of your current ICT and we will also predict what will be available in the near to mid future, looking at what ICT is about to arrive and what its relevance is to your company. In short, we will give you the intelligence to better run your company, address the needs of your customers and stay ahead of your competitors.