Choosing the right information technology (IT) system to suit your business is an important decision. IT provides a foundation for the running of most modern businesses. Its failure can have dire consequences, including loss of productivity, money and business reputation.
It is vital to take due care when choosing new IT solutions. Some of the key things you will have to consider when choosing any IT product are:
- skills and support required
- ability to scale up
- management and reporting capabilities
You may want to carry out an IT needs assessment to help you consider what your business needs are today, but also what they might be in the future. Technology moves quickly, so it's worth getting a future-proof system and keep up with the latest developments.
Types of IT systems in business
Most businesses have several information systems in place. For example:
- executive support systems - typically involve data analysis and planning tools to help with strategic decision-making
- management information systems - usually work with internal sources of information and help organise, evaluate, manage and present data in a readable form
- decision support systems - typically rely on databases to produce 'what-if' type of analysis
- knowledge management systems - help businesses create, share and manage information, often collaboratively
- transaction processing systems - automate routine transactions, such as billing, payroll, stock control, etc
- office automation systems - enable processing of data and information in a productive, efficient way
With all these systems, there are options to suit every kind of business.
You can ask a solutions provider to build you a system tailored exactly to your needs. However, this can be expensive and smaller businesses often find that 'off-the-shelf' software may be more practical than trying to develop something bespoke.
Cloud technology is on a rise. It provides businesses with a way of managing data, hardware and software requirements by using resources on the internet that are stored 'in the cloud'. This makes them accessible from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection and web browser. See cloud computing.
When you buy a new IT product, you may want to integrate it with your existing systems. For example, new accounting software with existing orders, purchasing and stock control systems. This allows you to continue using your existing tools alongside the new technology. However, compatibility issues are possible and you may need specialist support to set up the systems to meet your exact needs. See how to integrate your back-office systems.
Networking your computers is almost always worthwhile. Networking allows you to share hardware, software and internet access. More importantly, it makes it easy for people to share information and work together. See more on computer networking.