Leveraging your IT investments to innovate and grow your small business

While small businesses worldwide recognize that IT is critical to their success, many continue to lag on adoption. Why might this be? Cost, confusion, the return-on-investment? To uncover some answers on small business owners’ rationale for and pain points about technology, Dell and ICSB conducted the second annual International Small Business IT Survey.

In a panel discussion at the 2009 United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference, I discussed the survey findings and implications in both the US and globally, in addition to the impact of IT on small business growth with small business thought leaders including: 

· Dr. Charles Matthews, President of ICSB

· Denny Dennis, Manager and Series Editor for the SMB Polls from the NFIB

· Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy, Executive Director of ICSB

What Does This Mean For You?

In today’s tough economic climate, your natural tendency is to cut spending on new initiatives. However, if IT investment capacity is under-funded, the competitive position your company as a whole can be put at risk. It’s critical that small businesses implement smart IT strategies that help to simplify processes and save money.

To do so, we recommend small businesses implement both internal and external IT strategies. Within the business, IT must serve to provide sound and effective integration among individuals and groups. External to the business, IT must focus on how the company connects with customers.

Implementing an internal communication strategy that relies on IT can be a life-saver for a small business struggling to survive in an economic downturn. Technology investments, done right, will drive productivity and help drive cost out. According to the survey, IT solutions that are significantly transforming the way small businesses operate today include:

· Always on connectivity for an increasing global workforce

· Intelligent devices and analytic tools that increase productivity and ease management

· PCs and servers that maintain themselves at top performance levels

· PCs and servers designed specifically for small business needs

· Virtualization

· VoIP

Another key strategy for survival: adopting a strong customer focus. An external IT strategy will allow small businesses to connect with customers and potential partners, not just in their own markets, but around the world. The external IT innovations propelling small business growth today include:

· Cross border commerce

· Social networking as a key customer and partner interaction tool

· Targeted marketing

IT adoption = Success

IT innovations will continue to accelerate at a rapid pace and create more opportunities for small business success. Traditionally late adopters of technology, small business owners who embrace an internal and external IT strategy will better serve their customers, stay ahead of the competition and be poised for long term survival.

For photos from the event, check out the set on Flickr.

About the Author: Barry Jennings