Small business challenges are quite different than challenges that face big business. Some small organizations do not incorporate technology. This is primarily due to the lack of staff to implement and maintain the data. And anything IT-related is pretty scary. Anything related to change in current processes is uncomfortable.
Although I believe “if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” I also believe that change will bring about major improvements. Today’s economic conditions are forcing us to keep up with competition, And small businesses are frequently threatened by small mishaps. As consecutive generations take over family businesses they thankfully appear to be more comfortable with change and are starting to implement technology.
In helping small business migrate to technology we find it takes more than software implementation Here is how to “plant” Business Intelligence in a small business.
Determine Challenges and problems
If there doesn’t appear to be any challenges or problems, small businesses won’t see the need to implement any technology. I am not suggesting you give them all the reasons to buy into technology; what I am suggesting is that you listen to the story of their business.
In talking with the wholesale grower, I found they were challenged by keeping track of their inventory, including disposing of damaged plants. Unfortunately it is hard to determine their return on investment since expenses such as electricity, water, pesticides, and labor are not easily tracked against surviving stock.
Discuss current processes
All businesses have some sort of procedure or method they use to accomplish daily requirements. Most likely these activities have been the same for the past 30 years. The elimination of time constraints and unnecessary activities will create time for technology.
Methods of data storage
Small businesses will likely have small databases and/or Excel. Those with small databases will need to go through a data cleansing processes; those using Excel should consider at least moving to a small database on their server (and perhaps backing up to the cloud), though this is not always possible due to the cost. Excel can be easily and safely used to store data for Business Intelligence if proper training, procedures and backup are in place.
Training can be a bit more challenging in smaller businesses. Those who are averse to change or technology-challenged may not fully cooperate. Also, in many cases consultants are required to include process-changing training in addition to user training.
This is the perfect time to form a bond of trust with employees who will use the technology. Illustrating the ease of use, benefits, and rewards of technology will create the structure and foundation for continued use and ownership.
Unlike larger organizations that have an IT staff, smaller businesses require support until they are able to successfully function on their own. The recommended length of time is approximately three months, and gives the organization an opportunity to:
- Set up technology standards
- Establish areas of responsibility
- Test policies and procedures
- Question data integrity
- Determine the next step for technology advancement
- Develop confidence in new procedures and technology
I believe small businesses, no matter how small, can benefit from technology, because technology provides the business opportunities to grow.
By Cindy Balon Harder, from: http://www.visualdatagroup.com/node/144
Throughout her 20+ year career, Cindy Balon Harder has had extensive experience in Marketing, Wholesale & Distribution, Supply Chain, and in developing Sales and Operations Planning processes. She is particularly familiar with the Consumer Products industry where she has participated in all aspects of the supply chain, from demand planning to warehouse distribution. Cindy is a Principal at Visual Data Group. Her main focus is Marketing, PR and Social Media, and Supply Chain consulting.