When businesses grow from the startup phase to a full-on company, entrepreneurs are faced with a challenge: Which technologies should they invest in?
The typical path is to begin with an email provider and website and then develop a lead generation and contact management tool. Within just a few months of starting a company, a business can easily be utilizing nearly a dozen platforms from many providers. While this technology can (and should) make an entrepreneur's life easier, it can be tricky to get the hang of all the moving parts.
Often entrepreneurs end up outsourcing the IT support or hire their own internal team. Either way, a lot of IT professionals don’t have the insight as to how the rest of the company works, making it difficult to effectively integrate the many different apps and platforms business users are leveraging on a daily basis. As a result, a company may spend too much time and money trying to solve IT issues. This doesn't have to be the case.
For entrepreneurs looking to disentangle the IT web, here are three questions to ask your IT professional:
How can we empower the business user? When looking to hire IT support, you should make sure IT has the end user (aka the person using the technology) in mind. This will not only help the business user but the technology department too.
Today’s IT teams are too resource constrained to respond as quickly as business users require, resulting in a bottleneck. As a result, business users are striving to become more self-sufficient as they look for faster ways to connect with customers, launch new marketing campaigns and enter new markets.
It makes sense to view technology integration as a business application rather than a developer tool. Once organizations begin to give business users the tools to take over IT tasks like data mapping and the ability to self-provision customers and partners, IT no longer acts as a bottleneck but rather a value-added broker for business users.
What do IT processes look like for the non-technical user? With entrepreneurs constantly connected to their company, they have zero time (or patience) for the IT department to fix a problem.
Business users want an easy-to-use interface that enables workflow automation -- not a platform that requires advanced knowledge of code and an IT request ticket. When shifting lower level IT tasks to the business user, simplicity is key. Integration solutions should allow users with a non-technical background to build these interfaces without writing any code, such as using a drag-and-drop interface. Savvy business users and analysts will then be able to create connections, access data, configure triggers and map data formats using visual, web-based applications.
How can we leverage our existing IT infrastructure? Completely replacing existing systems aren’t viable from both a cost and IT standpoint. While integration platforms must provide end users with the functionality and ease of use they require, IT has often already made significant investments in a number of different business applications. Look for integration solutions and platforms that work with your existing IT architecture to avoid costly, time consuming projects.
Ideally, IT should implement a platform that can then be deployed to business users for day-to-day use and management. This way, IT can remain in control from a distance, while still empowering business users to take over between 60 and 70 percent of the daily tasks that traditionally fell under IT’s wheelhouse.
By enabling business users to take over day-to-day IT tasks, your entire organization wins. Not only does it allow users to make better and faster decisions by utilizing accessible data, but it also frees up IT to focus on high-level tasks that drive value, efficiency, and productivity across the entire business.
Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.