A considerable number of new businesses and startups rely on the internet as either their entire marketplace – or a significant part of their growth strategy.
So, what happens if you know nothing about IT but have a world-class idea that could underpin your life as an entrepreneur? The answer is; you need to get up to speed quickly.
Fortunately, you do not need a computer science degree to get a solid understanding of the tools that could help you on your journey. We will run you through the most important technology that we feel no entrepreneur should do without.
Project management software
So, you know the basics of IT including email, internet, creating documents, updating spreadsheets – but what about using IT to make sure your projects and businesses are being managed appropriately.
That is when pulling all of those things together becomes difficult – you either keep a (very large!) project book on your desk, and reference all the tools, documents and tasks that you are putting out to your team – or you get a project management tool.
Using something like Basecamp, Trello or Asana gives you a one-stop location that will do virtually everything you need – from communicating with your team to the creation of sub-projects and tasks that’ll keep your growth plan on track.
You can create individual areas within your chosen tool to reflect parts of your business – so, need a project that relates to your marketing efforts? No problem, invite the people responsible for marketing, and they have got their area in which they can plan and update. Want somewhere that is just for accounts and money related stuff? Again, no problem, you can have access and even invite company outsiders – like your accountant or book-keepers.
In fact, twinning a project management tool with a cloud collaboration service (more on that in a second!) almost removes the need for actual office space.
Cloud collaboration platforms
The cloud is not one place or one service. Instead, it is a way of describing how a service is delivered to your business. Instead of installing an IT application onto your office computers, your computers become something of a gateway to a much larger computer system that’s run by a service provider – some examples would be Microsoft, SalesForce, and Google – although the list includes many more well-known names.
Instead of storing your data and systems on your computers, you use an internet connection to upload and download information directly from these organisations. So, if you have got an internet connection, you have got access to your data.
This means that you can effectively make anywhere your office – from a coffee shop to a client site. What’s more, it means that you do not have to send copies of files to colleagues – instead, you can just ‘share’ a link to the location of the file – so, want someone to add to a spreadsheet? Send them a link, and you can watch from the other side of the world (should you wish!) as they update it.
When your business takes off, it is worth looking into business networking solutions – especially if you are handling sensitive data like HR, payroll, client or payment information.
A network is essentially the infrastructure that connects all your devices, no matter where they are. So, you have got a router, a PC and printer in your office? That is a network – as is a system that connects thousands of PCs, servers and the devices that are needed to configure them. As your business grows, the complexity of the IT that backs it up will also need to develop.
The world of networking is a complex one, and most entrepreneurs and startup businesses will turn to a managed service provider to support them establishing and maintaining a network. With cloud services and mobile network access becoming more required by businesses, you are likely to hear about ‘hybrid networks’ too – this is a type of network that uses more than one connecting technology – for example, broadband and 4G internet access.
You can click here for a detailed look at the best practices for business networking – and some of the questions and considerations that come up for entrepreneurs and small businesses who need a hybrid network.
If there’s one part of your business that’s almost guaranteed to give you headaches (unless you are an accountancy startup!), it is bookkeeping.
The daily grind of consolidating money can feel like a massive inconvenience when it detracts from your ability to apply yourself in other parts of the business – and having someone on board to take care of money from day one can have significant implications for cash flow itself.
This is where IT can be a massive help. Bookkeeping systems and accountancy software like QuickBooks, FreshBooks or Sage One can bring all your most frequently needed tasks into one application – meaning you and your team can keep track of everything as it happens. Scan your receipts, categorise your bank account incomings and outgoings, set up payroll – all done quickly and efficiently.
The key with book-keeping is to do ‘little and often’ – and if you get a notification to tell you that you need to check over your last five transactions while you have a cup of coffee, that can be simply done. The right bookkeeping IT tools can save you a significant monthly headache – and can help keep your sanity intact when financial year end comes around.
Okay, so ‘outsourcing’ isn’t IT tech as such. Instead, it is your gateway to IT skills that could take a lifetime to master otherwise – and when you are starting out it is likely to be difficult, or perhaps even outright impossible to take on IT professionals.
If you find yourself up against a problem, whether that is something web related – or something hardware related across your network, there’s someone online who can help you-you just need to know where to look.
Sites like PeoplePerHour, UpWork and Fiverr let you access IT professionals who’ll be able to remedy your problems quickly – and the best bit is, you can look through testimonials from other people who’ve used the freelancer too – meaning there’s no hoping for the best.