One of the top challenges for Small and Mid-sized Businesses is the very difficult task of staying current with business technology. There are really two sides to this challenge. The first deals with keeping the technology that is already owned up to date. It is essential that companies keep all business applications, operating systems, and other software versions up to date and to make sure all hardware, including servers and network infrastructure, as well as end user devices, are current with maintenance agreements, patches, and upgrades.
Technology vendors all have their own agreements and processes for providing patches and updates, and this can create a significant burden to track and manage, especially for companies who don't have a dedicated IT resource with the time and experience to stay on top of it all.
Depending on the size of a business and their technology footprint, managing the sheer volume of updates being released can be a challenge, and attempting to schedule testing, planned down time, and then troubleshooting any issues that arise only adds to the complexity. Most updates and fixes are for security, so this is not a process that a business can choose to ignore without serious risk and consequence.
Business owners also need guidance in understanding the cost of maintaining aging technology versus replacement or refresh. There will always be factors such as performance increases with newer technology, compatibility issues between existing technology and new systems, and the escalating cost of maintenance as systems get older and older.
The second part of the challenge of staying current with business technology is the awareness of new technology in the market that could be implemented to help your company gain a competitive edge. There are obvious benefits to upgrading to new equipment or business applications. New infrastructure is faster and usually more secure. New functionality and better integration between systems can have a major positive impact on employee productivity.
Understanding the impact of new or upgraded technology is a much less precise science. This is where the experience of a trusted IT partner can be extremely valuable. Business leaders often see technology investments as a cost. IT companies who have seen these systems implemented and have first-hand knowledge of the typical impact to the business, and can help a business leader make good decisions and set appropriate expectations. Technology vendors typically push for a sale by oversimplifying the implementation process and overinflating the expected benefits. An IT partner has the long-term success of the customer in mind and can help provide the needed context and real-world examples for business leaders to gain a complete understanding.
In episode 4 of the podcast, "IT Coach for Business Leaders," InfoSystems Virtual CIO Aaron Swann provides more detail about the challenges of keeping technology up to date.
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