This article was jointly written by Eric Hart of NPI Technology Management and Alex Meyer of Renaissance Information Systems. We share the view that strategic planning is the best approach to managing business growth.
Not every business wants to grow in size. Vermont statistics bear this out. Of the nearly 22,000 firms in the state 80% employ fewer than 10 employees, regardless of how long they have been operating. However, there are many small businesses that want to expand. If expansion is your goal, we recommend creating and following a roadmap and process for managing the business’s growth in conjunction with the technology that will help to drive it.
A focused, intentional and flexible approach to planning is key. For fast growing companies, it may seem that the business changes faster than plans can be made. Keeping a continual focus on a forward and backward view creates a smoother path for growth. The desire for smooth growth highlights the need for growing companies to adopt a flexible and adaptable approach to planning and incorporating it into your everyday workflow.
The Agile Retrospective approach is a simple yet powerful method of incorporating regular planning throughout an organization, the retrospective is intentionally incorporated into your regular meetings and focuses your attention on what is going well in your business, what could be going better, and what changes you want to make. These meetings can be used at any level of your business and on any timeline. For example, production staff might meet every other week to improve their processes while the executive team might meet monthly to review the status of the business and/or quarterly to review strategic plans.
Systematize your business to support the increased size and complexity that comes with growth. Systemization covers every part of your business—how you communicate internally and externally; how you acquire, maintain, and update technology; and how you make decisions. As your business grows, technology plays a larger and larger role in your success and planning your technology usage becomes vital. Below are a few of our recommendations for planning your use of technology.
Maintain access to your core data. Whether you use a custom system, an off the shelf software package, or a Cloud-based software platform, be sure that you can access your data how and when you need to. This is particularly important if you decide to change software systems and need to migrate your data.
Choose technology (hardware and software) that can grow with you. When your company first starts, a loose collection of laptops and Cloud applications works to keep costs low. As your business grows, migrating to business-grade computer and networking equipment becomes a must for reliability and maintainability. The same goes for Cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365, which has more features and is more secure than Google Docs. Finally, your information systems must also be robust enough to capture the increased complexity in your business as you grow. Some applications that served you well as your business started may no longer be up to the task and you will need to migrate to new systems or build your own.
Ensure there is oversight of all of your technology. As you grow, maintaining and managing your technology will become a full-time job on its own. You will either need someone internal who is dedicated to the task or an external partner with deep technology experience that can maintain your systems and guide you through making, updating, and executing on your technology plans.