by Joe Kloecker, Lakeview Consulting Services

iPhone and ComputersAs you develop plans to enhance company performance in 2016, consider the role that Information Technology (IT) will play over the long term. Prior to embarking on any specific IT project, you should build an overall strategy that includes technology initiatives geared to your business needs and ability to spend.

Managed IT

One approach to containing costs, while still providing a secure operating environment, is to consider managed services. This is the practice of outsourcing day-to-day IT management responsibilities as a method for improving operations and cutting expenses. Allowing IT professionals to monitor and maintain your network 24/7 will insure error free operations and enable you to focus more on business needs. Security requirements can also be managed by an experienced outside source. With new cyber-attacks being launched every day, a managed services company will keep your data and systems secure by taking steps to ensure their safety, confidentiality, and availability.

Cloud

Another growing alternative is to move your data and infrastructure to the cloud. This has the potential to remove a large portion of non-business related responsibility from your organization. Cloud services are designed to provide easy, scalable access to applications, resources and services, and are fully managed by a cloud services provider. With a cloud service, there’s no need for your company to deploy its own resources or allocate IT staff to manage the service. A few examples of cloud services include online data storage and backup solutions, web-based e-mail services, hosted office suites, document collaboration services, database processing, and managed technical support services.

Website

This year may also be a good time to reflect on future opportunities for your website. Hopefully your website has been helping you to sell your products, find new customers, or partner with your distributors. But there are a host of advanced functions for manufacturing websites. Here are just a few ideas: 1) online warranty registration, 2) product demo videos, 3) configuration calculators, 4) online safety training, and 5) replacement parts ordering. Increasing the functionality of your website can build a stronger relationship between you and your customers and also improve search engine optimization (SEO). Many organizations have used their website as a competitive advantage to grow their business.

Our region has experienced the growth of competent IT organizations to support your needs. These companies are capable of providing valuable advice and services to assist with any of the above initiatives. The NWIRC is also ready. Since many of these strategies involve some labor or services component, your company might qualify for partial funding through the NWIRC’s IT KickStart Program. To talk more about this offering, please contact your NWIRC Business Advisor.

Joe Kloecker, Owner of Lakeview Consulting Services, has over thirty years’ experience advising a range of organizations, from small start-up businesses to large international manufacturing companies, in selecting appropriate software and planning for disaster recovery and business continuity.