In my last post, I wrote about listening to your customer to get an idea of how they feel about technology, as this will provide you with a good starting point in designing a solution. The next part of the conversation you'll need to have is directly related to the technology and the business.
Chances are, as a small business solutions provider, you already have direct experience of being a small business. Many solution providers have one or two employees and have limited resources with which to maximize profit. In this way, you can relate to your customer – there's a lot of common ground.
Now you'll have to dive into the specifics. What does your customer need from IT: to improve business performance? Or to reduce risk? If this is the first time they have considered an IT solution, what were the barriers before? They may have thought the cost was prohibitive given their size. A recent expansion might dictate a move away from gmail and Google docs. For some, IT is too complex and they think they need a full time IT person to manage their system. Or a government compliance ruling might dictate the need for a solution that will allow them to continue operating.
As you get answers to your questions, you might want to consider what additional areas the business owner might need to think about which was not originally discussed like:
Back-up and archiving: Essential for customers that might experience adverse climate changes that put the business at risk, or for government compliance regulations.
Security: Network, client and desktop security have become high priorities for small business owners who are seeing an increase in the mobility of their workforce.
Network Infrastructure: Servers, telephones, you name it, and it's all got to work together like one happy family.
Accountancy and supply chain applications: It's time to move away from spreadsheets and figure out a better way to manage the business, and the workforce.
Another question you might want to ask is about growth. These are challenging times for all businesses and in times of economic downturn, most businesses are cutting costs and saving their pennies. However, there are a few out there who see an end of the decline in site and want to be prepared for the upswing. They might not be growing now, but their need might be soon, and it might happen fast. Will your solution allow them the flexibility they need to move forward with their business?
Disclaimer: As with everything else at Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by Novell (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).
It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.