Whilst the majority of the business funding help for SME’s from local and central government is focused on the provision of advice, guidance & support for businesses through mentoring, consultancy etc. very little is put into allowing businesses to utilise funding supports to implement modern business technology.
Pretty much the only dedicated technology funding exceptions being the Training Online Voucher (TOV) and some Social Media training.
If we want Kildare and Ireland to recover quickly from COVID-19 and be able to work in a distributed working environment (both online and on-premise) then I believe that it is fundamental that our businesses can avail of improved technology funding in order to implement better cloud based business systems.
Current approach to business & technology funding
Whilst I am sure that SME’s do benefit from the current approach from the various support agencies – from my day to day contact with business I know that owners, directors and managers also want to actually have their business systems and processes improved through the adoption of better technology. This can be achieved through technology funding. In many cases SME’s (and 90% of Irish businesses are SME’s) just don’t have anything apart from excel, word and a few ‘free’ apps from the internet. They are given funding for consultants who can help them put a 2 year budget forecast together (using a spreadsheet – you bet!)- but no funding to implement an accounting application or CRM. No training is provided in the basic skills required to use the systems or access to a ‘template’ to help manage and monitor their business.
Without these business systems in place (providing the basic ‘plumbing’ that a business needs to run efficiently and be able to report effectively) then inevitably companies reach a crisis point. They can’t move forward as they are too bound up in manual systems and spreadsheets to have the time free to invest in implementing a proper business system.
I believe that we should invest at an early stage in businesses in order to provide that ‘business plumbing’.
I believe that there is a lack of knowledge among the various funding bodies as to what constitutes a modern integrated business solution. Using the TOV to put in place a new website with some ability to sell goods and services and take payments just moves the business problem elsewhere. You may be able to sell goods and services online but how does that help with your supplier and stock management, credit management, KPI reporting, activity management, resource utilisation, contracts, warranties, accounting etc. etc.?
And yes social media training is important – but if you do manage to gain an online audience and influence people – you have to be able to monitor these channels, measure which ones are successful, be able to repeat it – and you still have the problem of managing your business from demand to procurement to delivery and support. It’s no good heavily promoting social media training if it is not in the context of a strategic business technology solution – as there is no ability to follow up, close leads and opportunities and deliver the goods and services.
Technology Funding to implement Business Solutions
By way of an example when we implement business solutions the following are typical components (note – these are not standalone components but included as part of Zoho One – an integrated cloud based business solution).
- Email Campaign management
- Lead Management (including web-to-lead straight from the website)
- Sales Management (accounts, contacts, opportunities) & Contract Management
- Activity Management (emails, tasks, meetings and phone calls)
- Product Management (inventory & pricing)
- Quotations & Invoices
- Reports & Dashboards
- Online Meetings & Webinars
- Marketing Automation
- Online Signing & Contract Management
- Online file storage and sharing
- Chat and screen sharing
- Online surveys
- Social channel management & monitoring
- Website monitoring and instant chat with site visitors
- Team Collaboration
- Project Management
- Expense Management
- Case Management
Additionally we have clients who also have the following applications (integrated with payment gateways for online payments) as part of the one ‘holistic’ business solution –
- Training Delivery
- Event Management
- eCommerce sites
- Buy Now buttons
- Subscription Management
- Book Keeping
The above are not ‘expensive to license’ software applications – this is standard out of the box software that can be licensed for as little as €35 per user per month! All of it – not just one app! If I was in a position to guide entrepreneurs and start-ups I’d want to ensure that they had and were using a standard business suite from day one.
I wince whenever I hear someone talk about using Zoom, EventBrite, Survey Monkey, DropBox, etc. These are mostly used as standalone applications where excel is used to manually pass personal identifiable information (PII) around.
Of course in order to make any sense of the information the data then has to then be exported, collated, cleaned, deduplicated and aggregated using another application for business analytics! What happened to the single view of the customer?
I won’t even mention the GDPR breaches, data privacy and security issues that inevitably go hand in hand with using these products.
And are you still sending your spreadsheets by email?
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Let’s make a change!
I feel passionately about this – I see so many businesses with great people, ideas, products or services but none of the fundamental business processes, controls or systems in place. Let’s put some funding in place in order to make sure that companies get early help to adopt an integrated suite of business applications along with great training in how to use it.
Please feel free to call me if you recognise that this is an issue and that you would like to do something about it.
If you are an SME and are suffering from exactly these issues – I can help. Cloudtech works with a great group of specialist, professional partners who can help get your company growing again.