Like a technological termite, a major challenge confronting most Small and Medium Family Business (SMFB), has the potential to undermine your business’s success well before you even become aware of it. Most owners think they are doing a great job in this area, but in reality, a hidden problem looms silently, until one day it all comes crashing down.
Most IT service providers do a great job of supporting technology and ensuring systems don’t break down so you can enjoy a high level of business continuity. Typically, in SMFBs, the IT department’s role (whether inhouse or outsourced), is to ensure that systems are working effectively, efficiently, and securely. If that is what happens in your business, IT service costs are kept to a minimum, and you are probably very happy with how it’s all being managed.
If you have reached this level of IT operational maturity, congratulations! You are already ahead of most SMFBs in this respect.
However, if you are content to stay at this level of maturity, you leave your business exposed to several risks that most SMFB owners and managers seem to be unaware of. When you operate like this, you may be meeting cost objectives, but you are hindering your business’ potential.
There needs to be a more strategic approach to maximising opportunities. In this context, you need to regard your IT management in a much broader sense. It is not just about avoiding operational downtime and ensuring continuity and security. It is about enabling the achievement of future objectives.
There are four areas that SMFBs need to address, and each has an implication on IT systems and management. However most often, we typically see only one of these areas is addressed with any degree of competence. We refer to these four areas (quadrants) as Process, People, Customers, and Growth:
When an SMFB is focused on only one or two of these quadrants to the detriment of the others, it is at risk of many unwanted consequences that are often hidden until they become so big, they can’t be ignored as the damage becomes apparent.
There are several warning signs which indicate that your business may be at risk. Typically, the warnings present as a misalignment in the level of maturity across the four quadrants. While there is a whole methodology behind the assessment of maturity (beyond the scope of this short article), suffice to say that it is critical to ensure that your business achieves alignment before you consider any further investments.
Most risks affect business results and impact but aren’t grounded in IT systems specifically. For example, if we examine impact on People:
- How often and how long do your people wait for systems to be ready to use?
- Do you have high staff turnover because people are frustrated with the tools?
- How do you measure performance?
- How do you recognise staff who are delivering outstanding outcomes?
- How do you encourage innovative thinking amongst your people?
- Are policies documented but disregarded in practice?
The important elements of best practice in IT management come down to thinking about IT in the context of how it assists your business with your service value system. This is where you plan for and enable your business to play the pivotal and integral role in turning demand and opportunities into stakeholder value.
Written by Majestic
The views expressed in this content are those of the author, who is also responsible for any errors and omissions. Family Business Australia and New Zealand provides this article for your information only. The content of the article should not be taken as advice. If you wish to explore this topic, please consult an advisor who you consider to have the expertise to provide specific advice in relation to your family business.