Azets accounts & business advisory services partner, Jonathan Rees, discusses the five building blocks of technology and how to work through these to transform and grow your business. The building blocks are important and relevant even for the most tech savvy and advanced SMEs as technology is continuously changing – the right app today could require updates by tomorrow.

1. Technology assessment – what do we need?

The first building block is carrying out a technology assessment and review, asking ‘what do we need technology to do for the business’?

As you grow and develop your business you are increasingly likely to come up against a number of resource constraints, whether that is your productive capacity or having enough customers to sell to. Technology can help you find ways of optimising those resources, for example by using automation to free up staff time, helping you pinpoint customer needs, or organising your production flow more efficiently to raise productivity. A key point of harnessing technology is to enable your business to get more out of what it has already and to grow the number of products, services and customers.

This could be data capture and processing, financial management, forecasting, monitoring cashflow, stock and inventory data. If there are current processes in place to track and monitor this information, the technology and associated processes and procedures can be reviewed to see how the boundaries can be pushed and improvements achieved.

2. Mindset shift

There is a requirement from staff across the business to look past the task of implementing the technology and into the benefits that using it will bring.

There are various ways in which the mindset shift can be dealt with – perhaps it is an incremental approach, a department at a time, for example, the Finance Function, or an update across the whole business in one go.

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Done correctly, and once the mindset has changed and benefits are made tangible, businesses can digitise and make significant advances in a relatively short period of time.

3. Financial investment

Thanks to the cloud and digital connectivity, technology has never been more accessible or affordable than it is today. There are some really powerful, inexpensive, accessible software solutions to help every shape and size of SME power up their business. Investing in technology no longer requires a big upfront cost – and the vast majority of technology platforms in the cloud are available on a monthly subscription.

The cost of simple accounting cloud software,  which has a huge number of features and a great amount of capability and connectivity, starts at no more than £25-£30 a month.

The financial investment should be viewed as exactly that – an investment, not a cost to the business. The long-term gain of adopting and embracing technology gives many benefits – real time and critical business information, forecasting, KPI monitoring, business performance and so on. All of this data in turn helps the business to grow, therefore a critical investment to ensure a business remains on track to achieve its strategic and performance objectives.

4. Choosing the right technology

There is a lot of technology and apps available – but SMEs need to start with the basics and understand the needs of their own business and what is required from technology to improve performance and help them grow.

We have worked with many clients to review business needs and the technology that will help meet objectives.

Making marginal and progressive improvements can involve one piece of technology that can dramatically improve the data available to a business, in turn helping drive decisions. Therefore, our recommendation would always be to choose the right technology from the start – everything all at once doesn’t necessarily bring all the benefits at once and can have the opposite effect.

For example, interpreting figures and data to drive strategic decisions is a key benefit of technology, but technology cannot make the decisions – this will still involve people and the right staff to make better, more effective and quicker decisions.

Technology gives staff and businesses the gift of time to focus on running and growing the business. Technology can plug resource restraints, create capacity for more jobs as the firm grows and needs more staff – ultimately helping the business to grow.

Our team of trusted business advisors can help SMEs plot and organise the structure so staff feel empowered by the technology and experience the benefits. And our Software Solutions team are experts in matching businesses to software that help SMEs thrive. By working closely with business leaders to understand needs, using our extensive knowledge of the market, we design a bespoke solution that will help you stay compliant, improve your efficiency, connect your people and achieve your commercial goals.

5. Operational structure and staff

There is a misconception that technology will take away jobs, however that is not necessarily the case. Technology is an enabler for growth as it takes away the mundane, administrative heavy tasks allowing staff to focus on other activities that drive the business.

A cyclical process

Once businesses have completed the first five building blocks, the process starts again. Digital transformation is a journey, a cyclical process and not an overnight one. Once a business and staff are reaping the benefits of technology, the process can begin again to evolve, use more technology to drive further business decisions and make newer technology investments.

Implementing technology is not solely about buying the technology – there are layers to consider first to make sure technology is applied correctly.