As every savvy business owner knows, using the right IT tools and technologies to grow your business can spell the difference between a thriving company and a struggling one. Even so, COVID-19 has taken things to another level as businesses all over the world have had to adapt to economic lockdowns and social distancing guidelines. IT set-ups that were sufficient for the needs of 2019 and even early 2020 will no longer meet the needs of a business with employees working from home and serving customers remotely instead of in-person. What IT tools and technologies should companies to grow their business today and in the future? IT managed service providers from across the nation weigh in, offering tips and advice that can help business owners make wise, well-informed decisions.
Mike Shelah from Advantage Industries serves businesses in Baltimore and Washington DC. He strongly recommends that companies use enterprise-level data analytics and back-end integration so that a small group of employees can handle mammoth tasks such as tracking sales, project management, sales invoicing, and more. Anthony Buonaspina from New York-based LI Tech Advisors also points out the importance of using technology to do jobs that used to be handled by staff members. As he accurately notes, COVID-19 has not only depleted many business owners’ cash reserves but also left them without help from key employees who either left their jobs or had to be laid off for lack of business income. Buonaspina specifically recommends using Microsoft Office 365 to not only automate tasks but also make it easy for employees to communicate clearly and collaborate easily with each other. The recommendation is a sound one; Microsoft Office 365 has more than one million corporate users all over the world and offers helpful tools such as Hosted Exchange for email, Microsoft Teams for conference and video calls, and OneDrive with 1TB of storage space. Other recommended tools include Slack, Dropbox for Business, and Datto for backing up company data.
Alek Pirkhalo from Chicago-based Infiniwiz puts a premium on creating an IT set-up that facilitates a “work from home” business structure. As he accurately notes, any company employee could be forced to quarantine him or herself with little advance notice. Additionally, the fact that many school districts throughout the United States aren’t providing full-time, in-person learning environments could require that one of your employees work from home while caring for their children. To this end, Pirkhalo recommends that business owners set up docking stations for employees to work outside the office should the need arise. The set-up could include providing company employees with business laptops; such laptops would not only be more secure than regular personal computers but also contain the software programs an employee would need to work effectively from home. Additionally, Pirkhalo advises business owners to set up business VoIP services if these aren’t already in place.
Ian Hansen works at Philantech3, an IT managed service provider in Washington State. He points out the advantages of partnering with an IT managed service provider to ensure your business has access to the IT tools and services that are the best fit for your industry. At the same time, he notes that it’s important to select an IT managed service with care, as some services are sub-par while others may be a bad fit for your company. He recommends that business owners put a premium on finding an IT service that offers a responsive help desk, full documentation for all systems and procedures to ensure maximum support, highly visible operations, IT consulting and planning services, business continuity services to keep you running no matter what happens, and the tools and technologies needed to scale services and products to suit your business needs now and in the future. Furthermore, he notes that trust is a huge factor to take into account when selecting a managed service. Select a company you feel you can trust to keep its word and prioritize your business needs over its own corporate profits.
How should companies use technology to grow a business in a post-coronavirus world? There is no one-size-fits-all answer; even so, the suggestions outlined above provide plenty of food for thought. A business will want to put a premium on creating an IT set-up that allows staff members to do their jobs quickly, efficiently, and securely from the comfort of their own homes. Companies should make it easy for employees to communicate with each other and with supervisors, suppliers, and customers as needed. VoIP services and software programs such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are ideal for these purposes. Businesses that have a shortage of qualified personnel should use technology to automate tasks so that a small group of employees can do the work that was previously done by a large number of staff members.
At the same time, Wil Buchanan from Philantech3 warns businesses of the dangers of investing in the wrong technologies. Selecting IT tools and services that you don’t need and/or aren’t a good fit for your company will add complexity to your operations and waste money that could have otherwise been used for vital operating expenses. Partnering with an IT managed service to keep IT costs low and get professional help in upgrading your IT department will help you avoid making unnecessary IT upgrades but it’s also important for business owners to identify their own core goals and then match each goal to the best tools for reaching the end result. Doing so will help a business owner save money and boost profits while meeting or even exceeding customer expectations.