Is information technology a necessary evil, or can it help small and midsized businesses (SMBs) succeed?
Security and backup software specialist Symantec surveyed 2,452 small businesses across 20 countries to answer that question. The results, as detailed in the company's newly-released Global SMB IT Confidence Index (PDF) show a correlation between strategically implementing IT solutions and achieving business goals.
Are You Confident About Small Business IT?
Symantec's SMB IT Confidence Index measures how confidently SMBs leverage computing technologies to support their strategic business goals. Based on its findings, Symantec grouped small businesses into top-tier, middle-tier and bottom-tier categories.
Top-tier companies use technology to drive business and gain a competitive edge more effectively than their mid- and lower-tier peers. In a blog post, Brian Burch, vice president of consumer and small business marketing at Symantec, said that at top-tier organizations, small business IT confidence comes from, well, the top.
"As it turns out, IT confidence trickles down from company leadership, beginning with the founder’s previous experience. About three-quarters (74 percent) of top-tier SMBs reported that their view on IT has been influenced by the founder’s previous business experience," wrote Burch.
Among top-tier SMBs, their business leaders' views on IT have a profound impact on how they invest in technology.
"Due to their enlightened perspective, 'tech-confident SMBs' more frequently invest in high-quality elements in their computing infrastructure while also investing in advanced initiatives like mobility and the cloud. In the end, top-tiers see these trends as being worth the risk far more often than the bottom-tier companies," added Burch.
According to Symantec, it pays to emulate top-tier companies. The report indicates that small businesses exhibiting higher IT confidence are more likely to achieve better a business outcome.
"Eighty-one percent of top-tier SMBs said 'using computing strategically to drive our business forward' was a somewhat to extremely effective way to increase market share," the company wrote in a statement. Only 35 percent of bottom-tier SMBs hold that view.
Top-tier organizations are also better at keeping their data secure. Seventy-eight percent said that they are somewhat or extremely secure compared to just 39 percent for organizations in the bottom tier.
Tips to Improve Your Small Business IT IQ
How do SMBs climb up the ranks? Symantec suggests "thinking like a founder" and offers the following tips:
1. Invest for value, not cost
When evaluating IT solutions for business, small businesses should consider long-term cost and value, and determine what technologies will help differentiate them from the competition while supporting future growth.
2. Use IT strategically to address core business objectives
Top-ranking small businesses match the right IT initiative to their business goal. They are more aggressive at deploying advanced technologies such as mobile and cloud, and they focus on efficiency. For example, top-tier SMBs would consider using online collaboration tools and video conferencing to reduce landline and travel costs.
3. Keep your IT house in order
Especially when it comes to protecting data—data loss can be a death sentence for a small business. In terms of security, SMBs are specifically targeted by cybercriminals. Top-tier small businesses understand the importance of keeping security up-to-date, and 81 percent of those surveyed aggressively employ security measures. The same pattern holds true for backup and disaster preparedness.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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