by Steven Cohen


The three biggest mistakes SMEs make when buying IT systems

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For today's SME, robust and reliable IT systems are as essential as air or water is to a living organism. Without sound technology in place, you will find it difficult to keep the records SARS and other institutions demand, to stay on top of your paperwork, to track your business performance, and to meet the demands of your customers.

Even though computer hardware and software as well as internet connectivity are cheaper than ever, they still represent a significant investment for SMEs. Here are a few mistakes I've seen SMEs make when they're choosing new business systems.

1. Analysis-paralysis

Many small business owners agonise about which tablet computer, notebook or accounting application to buy. The more research they do, the more confused they get about the pros and cons of the various solutions they are evaluating.

My advice is to do your homework and choose a good brand that will get the job done. But don't get too hung up about finding the perfect tool or solution. You can waste a great deal of time looking for something that doesn't exist. Rather get up-and-running quickly so that you can benefit from the technology as soon as possible.

2. Vendor lock-in

When you're choosing software, make sure you go for something built on industry standards that gives you access to your business data. If your business grows or its needs change, you might need the flexibility to switch to a new platform. A good solution will give you the freedom to easily migrate your data should you need to.

3. Choosing a fly-by night vendor or service provider

When you're choosing your hardware and software vendor, as well as your reseller, look for partners that have experience, who know the business, and have decent reputation for service and support. Sure, that new cloud-based service or open-source tool might be free, but what level of technical support can you expect if you run into technical difficulties? What service levels do the vendors promise - can you count on the system being available when it's time to your monthly invoice run?

All too many SMEs go for the cheapest option, not knowing what sort of compromises they might be making in terms of security, reliability, or data ownership. Be sure that you understand what you're buying into when you go for the free or cheap option.

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