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By: Michael Guggemos

Small businesses cannot afford to sink all of their resources into their IT departments, important as technology may be to their business. Today, the majority of small businesses use IT budgets and resources to maintain infrastructure, despite the fact that the department is also tasked with both supporting and growing the business.

Supply chain optimization – improving the way in which companies procure and deploy technology resources – may be the key to reconciling these sometimes competing business objectives and allowing organizations to free up funds to support the new role of IT. This ultimately drives greater growth and business transformation. Software-based technology has evolved such that small business owners can analyze their organization’s technology needs and make more informed decisions to simplify their IT investments. This ultimately empowers them to nimbly scale their technology as the company grows. Here are three key ways small businesses can make better decisions about their IT investments and enable innovation at their organizations.

Assess what is actually being used

A first step for businesses seeking to streamline their supply chain is to understand what resources are actually being used within the organization. Today’s market is shifting to a consumption-based approach in which businesses pay for what they use, as opposed to a licensing-based or seat-based model that requires an upfront investment regardless of consumption. Historically, organizations over-procure or over-provision their licensing – buying full functionality to technology suites that end up being used by only a fraction of the organization.

Instead, business owners can employ management tools to identify who is using what resources and get a sense of their true needs. When business owners understand who is using what, they can shut off, shift or limit what is not being used. Small businesses are generally resource-constrained, and this presents one of the most immediate opportunities to reinvest into organizational transformation.

Consider moving to the cloud – or bringing your own device

Small businesses integrating modern technologies into their existing models can do so seamlessly via the cloud. The best way to do this today is through software as a service, in which you buy the individual rights to use the application, as opposed to the application itself, or platform as a service, in which users gain a pre-built foundation to develop and run applications without the complexity of building or supporting the infrastructure.

Another approach is to encourage employees to bring the devices they’re most familiar with into the office. Small businesses can establish specific security requirements for what employees can connect with, and preinstall mobile device management and security solutions to support these efforts. This approach works for small businesses, which typically are not global in scale and therefore have the flexibility to experiment with personal-use technologies.

Explore options for managed services

There is great value for business owners in working with a managed services provider that advises them on how supply chain optimization can help them do things a bit differently. A managed services provider can offer more mature, deep management tools for both hardware and software that evaluate the size of the organization, provide recommendations based on similar organizations and help measure expected consumption.

IT departments must play a more strategic role in growing businesses, and studies have shown that a more connected workforce can drive better business outcomes. Yet, finding the funds to support this can be a challenge. According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report commissioned by Insight, 55 percent of respondents say budget constraints are preventing them from equipping employees with the best-available technology to support their work and productivity. A managed services provider can help businesses find the funds to support these efforts.

In addition to paving the way for innovation, there is another major benefit for organizations in optimizing their technology supply chain: it’s scalable. Smaller businesses have distinct needs from their larger counterparts, but in streamlining your supply chain and building the infrastructure to understand and continually re-evaluate your needs, you’re creating processes that can be used as the company grows. It behooves small business owners, then, to right-size their supply chains now, eliminating one of the key roadblocks to transformation and growth.