As I expand the web capabilities of this publishing and speaking business, I realize that the demands for an IT manager of a small business are evolving rapidly. Small businesses no longer have to just worry about backing up the aging MS-DOS based PC which runs the payroll and invoicing system.
Small businesses in the future will no longer need to choose between an in-house IT department or a contract with an IT support partner. Small businesses still need to support the foundational applications for book keeping and payroll, but now also need to provide services to customers such as a blog and shopping cart. Corporations have the in-house resources to justify IT specialists in each of these areas.
Small businesses cannot justify full-time IT experts to manage the complexity that accompanies secure e-commerce and rich blogging capabilities. However, as a small business owner your web presence is an integral part of your business now. Your web presence now goes way beyond having a website. You need to be web-centric, even if you are not web-centric today. You need to be web-centric if you are a plumber, run a cleaning business or service lawnmowers.
Last week week I released Dodging the Bullet Points which references Free TimeSavers on my web site. In order to provide readers with the results of the most current information available on Presenting with PowerPoint, I need to integrate my website with Dodging the Bullet Points. Sounds simple, but this integration is no easy feat. My shopping cart, Blogging vendor and email list service are separate vendors. As the CIO, IT manager, PC technician and web programmer for my small business, integrating the services from these different vendors is a challenge.
With an MBA in e-Business and working as an eCommerce Project Manager, I am fairly tech savvy. My good friend who hosts my website is also an IT professional and helps tremendously to solve technical challenges. If this integration is so hard for us, I can only imagine how hard such integration must be for non-IT small business owners.
The Institute for the Future provides the Future of Small Business Report
, which articulates my experiences over the past few weeks. Essentially the report says that small businesses in the future will need to be web-centric in order to compete.
The complexity of the web services needed to be web-centric, and the array of options available are overwhelming. Small business owners can invest time more wisely than delving into the world of sitemap protocols, RSS feeds and security certificates which will require vast amounts of productive time. This leaves a small business owner with a challenge.
How do you compete in this changing environment? I believe the answer lies in a new breed of IT partner for the small business. You need an IT Partner who helps you to select the best services offered on the Internet for you needs, and then works with you to integrate them into a consistent experience for your customers.
This IT partner should not be just any consultant, but a partner who can implement your IT strategy because the services will change as new service providers emerge and you want an IT partner who is looking out for your needs and will advise you when to switch providers for lower cost or more appropriate services.
I am experiencing the pain of integrating these services in my business and feel that there is a desperate need for IT partners to fill this need for small businesses. I cannot find a consultant to solve these web-centric problems for me, and I expect that other small business owners are facing the same challenges. I expect that the person who provides solutions to these integration challenges for small businesses will be in high demand for the next decade or so.
The bottom line is:
1. Small businesses need to become web-centric.
2. Services are available on the web to provide each service that a small business needs, at significantly lower cost than you can match in-house.
3. These web-centric services are too complex to consider implementing these services in-house without e-Commerce expertise.
4. The biggest challenge is integrating the disparate services into your website so that your customers experience a consistent view when they visit your website, and your blog and get a phone call from your staff and receive an email response to their text message.
5. Small business owners must select a new type of consultant as an IT Partner who creates a web-centric IT integration strategy, and implements it for the small business owner, at affordable and realistic fees.
What do you think? What is the biggest challenge that an IT manager for a small business will face in the future? Where are the opportunities for IT managers in small businesses in the next decade?