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How can SMEs overcome Inherent Difficulties
Clear Vision and Purpose
Set clear vision for the company. Decide what you want the company to be in the pre-determined future. With that, set the vision for the IT project. Define the purposes of the IT project, what it intends to solve or what it intends to improve.
Build up Strong Management Team
This is easier say then done. The definition of a strong management team differs from one CEO to another among the SMEs. This is very much dependent on the background, preference and management knowledge of the CEO will determine what the management team will be.
It is important to specify the company vision, the business objective, define the business plan and then determine what type of management skill will be required in the management team to achieve the company vision. A strong management team with leadership skill and ability to appreciate technology will make the implementation of IT much easier.
Culture of Learning and Sharing
Keeping up with knowledge and seeing the world mattered less in the days of lifetime employment and when technology changed relatively slower. However, due to the rapid changes of technologies, even companies are trying hard to remain successful for more than two to three decades. The job nature of each employee also changes more rapidly. In 1990, Digital Equipment Corp. was the second largest company in the computer industry; a decade later it no longer exists as an independent company. In the early 1980s nothing could stop IBM; in the 1990s it shed more than 100,000 jobs. The once-great British motorcycle industry in non-existence nowadays.
To survive and to be successful, organization must continue to improve and learn. A culture of willingness to learn and share knowledge will make the organization transformation much easier. This will reduce the resistance to change.
Investments in training of management team and staff are necessary. This will open the windows to the other alternatives of operating the business in more efficient and profitable way.
Resistance to changes is one of the biggest obstacles in any IT implementation or organization improvement. Having a culture of learning and sharing of knowledge will help to minimize that effect. The culture of the company can only be molded by the leadership of the top management. The top management has to lead by example and show willingness to change.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
By the way, common sense is not so common. If you want your staff to know what you intend to do, you have to communicate to them. Never assume that they can read your mind. The fact is, technology has not advanced to the stage of mind reading.
It is quite common for some top management to ignore communicating their plan or intention to their staff. This may be due to the usual busy work schedule of the top management or the intention to keep their plan confidential. There happen more frequently for top management of SMEs. If the staff do not know the long-term plan and objectives of doing certain tasks, it is very difficult for them to exercise initiative. This in turn, put additional work on the top management to provide closer supervision and guidance. Staff will be less motivated in carrying out the task due to the lack of ownership of the task. If the top management cannot have the basic trust on their staff, it is also very unlikely that their staff will trust them. This distrust will create obstacles to any organization improvement.
Get External Help
Good external advisors or consultants can induce different way of looking at the business and expertise in some specific areas.
It is normally not affordable for SMEs to employ high quality management and technical staff. Besides the salary, experienced management and technical staff are less willing to work in SME due to the limited career advance prospect. Yet, expertise and experience staffs are essential for the growth of the company. How can we overcome this? One of the more common ways is to engage external advisors and consultants on term contract basis to guide and improve specific business issue. This will also offer the existing staff a chance to learn during the process. Once the company grow to a larger size, higher quality staffs will then be easier to attract. Another advantage of engaging external consultants is to take advantage of the government financial assistance on management consulting project for SMEs.
External Financial Assistance
There are many financial assistance schemes available. Some are from the government agencies and some are from hardware and software vendors. SMEs can take advantage of these schemes to minimize their cash flow issues due to the IT project implementation.