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Plan your online technology roadmap and prevent problems later

Bernard-Harper-WebBeing prepared is essential for future-proofing your small business.

By Bernard Harper, Managing Director of Net Return Consulting, a leading team of online strategy and implementation specialists.

Many businesses invest heavily in their website and online channel without a clear plan of how it supports their business and future plans. The probable result is a great looking website that doesn’t necessarily do the job you need it to do, or can’t grow.

The Need
As businesses grow, sometimes the original technology choices no longer support the current business. Issues emerge associated with expansion and the failure of the underlying technology to keep up. These can quickly turn into big problems if not managed and planned for carefully.

It is not uncommon that as far as the online part of the business is concerned, the choice of technology was made quickly, perhaps with not much thought as to where the business would be down the track. The internet has changed many business models. You might find the technology used when the business was much smaller is the wrong building material now your business has grown.

Once the web was solely a showcase for the business. Now in many cases it is the business, the information point where your customers and suppliers interact to order your products and services and share information about themselves…

If your business has reached the point where your website is now a significant or growing channel, it’s time to check your current infrastructure.

Seven signs
Here are seven signs your technology is not keeping pace with your business:

1. Your web won’t communicate with your other internal and external (supplier) systems;
2. You’re taking orders and inputting the same information into one or more systems manually;
3. You know nothing or very little about your customers and can’t tailor your marketing to them based on their preferences;
4. You’re locked into one web supplier who ‘can’t do that bit’ – feeling of being stuck;
5. You do not have a copy of your source code;
6. Your maintenance costs are high. Small changes take a long time and cost an
awful lot;
7. You have to do lots of manual workarounds.

Sand in the gears
Are you over fire fighting? Your website and the technology behind it may be holding you back.

Many internet technologies are attractive because they are cheap. Pages and templates can be churned out quickly. However as more and more demands are made, scalability and extensibility become problematic. This is because the technology is not designed to talk to other systems.  Making them do so is akin to flying to London in a Cessna. You’ll get there but it will take a long time and there will be a many maintenance issues along the way.

The best approach
It’s a fundamental of business to remember that CRM, order management and fulfilment will help you connect with your customers – and the right internet technologies can enhance that experience for you, and your clients. However, it’s vital that small business owners understand that their business should drive the technology they use, and not the other way around.

If you’re unsure of who or what is doing the driving, start by developing a technology roadmap  – your technology needs to be married to your business plans. Make sure the technology being recommended to you is the right fit and not what the developer feels comfortable with, and don’t get stuck having to spend excess time and money adding functionality and integrating with key systems.

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