Small business owners find that choosing an IT provider is a very important decision. After all, the company you choose must be willing to undertake the hardships and shortcomings that you have already accepted as inevitabilities down the road of growth and success. This company must have the desire, passion, and motivation that match your business demands. There must be an understanding: IT must help maintain the business internally and grow it externally.
Small businesses are looking to grow - and IT professionals should be helping.
In an article over at computerworld.com, author Julia King talks about certain companies and their choice to go with a model of forged IT-business alignment as opposed to business outsourcing. These companies enjoy a high level of organizational efficiency thanks to an organizational business philosophy that focuses on common goals.
Zappos.com and Vanguard are two examples of companies where "business and IT are virtually indistinguishable." Other companies with similar situations include Procter & Gamble, Progressive, and Southwest Airlines.
Here are some excellent signs regarding the relationship between the companies and their IT solution, or "IT-Business Convergence". Companies with a high degree of IT-business convergence do the following:
- View IT as an innovation engine that continually transforms the business, often enabling new revenue streams.
- Regard their customers as kings and view customer service, both internal and external, as supreme.
- Rotate business and IT staffers across departments and job functions.
- Provide an overarching goal that is crystal clear to each and every IT and business employee.
- Ensure that IT employees know how the company makes (or loses) money.
- Create a distinct, vibrant and unique company culture.
CIO Ray Voelker of Progressive points out that "it's hard to be effective in your job if you can't speak the language and understand all of the terms and the dynamics of the business." The idea of information transparency is a telling sign that IT-business convergence is in full swing.
The results of a successful, transparent IT-business convergence can be incredibly fruitful. In the case of Vanguard, from 2001 to 2010, assets grew from $580 billion to $1.4 trillion, with technology playing a major role. Zappos.com recorded gross merchandise sales of more than $1 billion in 2009 before being bought by Amazon.com.
Small businesses have the ability to grow at an alarming rate - technology can help alleviate this transition and further assist with every aspect of a developing company. Don't be afraid to entrust your goals and shortcomings to IT - they should possess the same drive and desire to help your business succeed.