Is Your Business Technology-Strategic or Technology-Dependent?

Security in the IT arena is not a new topic, but corporate awareness of its presence (or lack thereof) is at an all-time high. Not a day goes by without seeing a headline somewhere relating to stolen data, hacked company computers or leaked private information. When Sony’s Playstation┬« Network got hacked, there were estimates reported around $24 billion in losses. Then there were security breaches at Citigroup or Lockheed Martin. They were both juggernauts of industry with hardened defenses and yet were victims of stolen sensitive information. It appears no one is safe, but does obscurity or anonymity still qualify as protection for your small organization?

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a board room discussion with a couple of partners at a smaller private CPA firm and the topic of their network security came up. Mind you, these two gentlemen had a basic understanding of technology as most business owners do, but could not wrap their heads around why it was so important to purchase and install a firewall. A firewall! The most basic of network security devices and here I was trying to justify such a basic, yet mandatory, investment to any business, much less a financial firm.

It was a confirmation of a truth that is common no matter the size of the company. That truth is simple – most business owners have a difficult time appreciating or valuing technology unless they have experienced some type of pain relating to technology. That pain may be lost data, bad support, frustrating software… etc. Whenever I meet with prospective clients, one of the questions I ask in the beginning is “Are you ‘technology dependent’ or ‘technology strategic’?” This sets the tone for what direction we recommend.

Technology Dependent – This is most common among small, private firms. Your business may rely on your computers and networks, yet your decisions regarding technology are typically reactive and cost is commonly the biggest factor on whether or not you proceed. The inherent problem with technology-dependent firms is the unseen lack of efficiency and super high risk factors. Time and productivity are commonly overlooked as assets to the company. Here are some factors common in technology dependent firms:

a. Computers are older (4+ years old) and sometimes are even beige or off-white (a sign of age).

b. Few important proactive tasks are being performed, such as testing backups, patches and risk assessments.

c. There is no guidance on how to leverage technology to contribute to profits or increased productivity.

d. The company is still paying someone to fix things when they break on an hourly basis.

e. There is little to no network security.

Technology Strategic – A business that has seen the true purpose of technology and has enabled itself to do more is strategic. “More of what?” you may ask. It can be more productivity, more efficiency, more revenue and/or more contented staff. Firms that I work with that are “technology strategic” appreciate what technology can do for them and are not resistant to change. Here are some factors that make up a technology strategic firm:

a. Computers are maintained (optimized, clean and typically under 3 years old).

b. Network operations and security is being actively monitored.

c. Security policies are in place both in hardware and software.

d. An IT budget exists and is fixed.

e. The IT solution is a regular topic in your business planning meetings.

If you want to have growth in your firm, confidence in your IT security, and the best return on investment, you need to find ways to start moving to the strategic side of the spectrum. It will not happen overnight but the process needs to occur or risk falling behind your competition.

Where do you start? You need a trusted technology resource whether it’s a friend, your nephew, your executive assistant, or an established IT firm. Much like your clients rely on you for the best in professional financial advice and guidance, you should expect the same in terms of technology advice from a trusted technology partner. That said, have a look at this technology grocery list. If you don’t have these 10 items in place, you should seriously consider implementing them:

- Documented and tested backup process both local and off-site. You should be getting regular reports of these backups.
- Network security policy (passwords, data access, acceptable usage policy are examples).
- Basic alerts when there is a failure on your critical systems, such as a server or email.
- A firewall
- Antivirus and Antimalware software
- Anti-spam for email
- Data and email encryption
- Regular computer and network maintenance
- Secured wireless access
- Internet filtering

Choosing The Right Retail Technology Partner

Would you ask an unsuccessful person how to become more successful? Or ask a friend with a run-down car what the best vehicle is on the market? I would think not.

So, it is suffice to say that you shouldn’t ask a fellow retailer who is struggling with their business technology where to get software technology from. In more cases than one, you’ll find they got software that didn’t suit their needs, and have a retail service provider who isn’t helping them succeed.

Having the right technology is one thing. Having a good retail technology partner who knows retail and backed by an excellent support team is quite another. These two things go hand-in-glove.

These service providers, or “Value-added Resellers” (VARS), are a key factor to helping a retailer boost efficiencies and increase profits. They will help a retailer make the right business decisions on technology and ensure that the technology they chose fits their business needs.

A retail technology partner should know retail, not just retail technology. When choosing a VAR, look for these key factors:

* Retail experts able to consult with you about your needs and who help you with making the right technology choice.

* Retail sales consultants who provide the best technology tools to help you in running your business.

* Knowledgeable and highly experienced technical support staff.

* Support staff who are quick to respond and always available when you need them.

* Tailored support plans to get the most out of the system.

* Technicians with the ability to customize the system to fit your needs, handling everything from seamless installation and conversion to project management.

* Retail consultants that help train your employees on a new system and provide on-going training and education.

A home furnishing and gift store in Mesa, California turned to a VAR to help them with their choice in a retail point of sale system. The store Fleur De Lys partnered with One Step Data. The company installed Retail Pro┬« as the best choice for the store and, since the installation, owners Shannon Ritter and Josephine Pfeiffer have maintained a proactive relationship with One Step Data. “We are always getting information regarding new products and system information,” says Ritter. “I certainly don’t feel we’ve been abandoned since our purchase. It’s like having a corporate Help Desk or IT department.”

Having expert help makes a big difference for retailers. Who else can they turn to if they don’t have knowledgeable experts who know retail?

“Technology is an important tool for business, especially for retailers,” says Scott Kreisberg, owner of One Step Data. “The market has exploded with literally thousands of companies offering different technology solutions. But not all companies are alike.”

Kreisberg’s company has been helping retailers with their business and point of sale systems for over 20 years. His confidence in his company being able to offer the right solution to retailers comes from having the best products at their disposal, and over two decades of experience and knowledge implementing technology in retail businesses.

“We have become the central nervous system of our customers,” claims Kreisberg, “and are constantly working on ways to help them improve their store operations.”

Retailers should contact a VAR to meet with them personally and determine whether or not that reseller fully understands retail, not just retail technology. The VAR should be able to find a solution that fits with the way the retailer does business and work with them every step of the way to help them achieve their goals.