2. Installing a Server to Create the Right Backend Infrastructure
It is remarkable how little attention small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) pay to getting the right IT infrastructure in place. At the heart of this is setting up a reliable messaging and security solution. Ensuring that every individual can get a personalised email address, setting up filters to screen viruses and spam, having a firewall to prevent unauthorised electronic intrusions, providing every employee with access to the Internet these are just some of the basic requirements for the IT base.
In addition, centralised storage of files and management of printers eases two key pain points in enterprises. All of this can be done by deploying a single server. Just as an engine powers a train, the server powers the information flows within the organisation. It provides the right foundation to build the rest of the desktop computing infrastructure. It should be possible to set up the complete server infrastructure for no more than Rs 4,500 (USD 100) per employee hardware and the systems software software included.
3. Providing Every Employee with a Computer
A computer on every desktop this was Bill Gates vision. Today, much of the developed world has achieved this state. The computer is, arguably, the single most important reason for the productivity increase we are seeing across the US, Europe and Japan. And yet, in most of the emerging markets, SMEs still use archaic paper- and labour-intensive processes, when smart use of technology can make their own staff more efficient and productive. They key to making this happen is the provisioning of one computer for every employee.
Take something as simple as email. Email does not work well internally if half the organization has it, and the other half does not. The processes based in the organization will always fall to the lowest common denominator among the staff. This is what needs to change. Be it thin clients or thick desktops, Linux or Windows, a computer on every desktop must be considered as fundamental for productivity as providing a table and chair.
4. Deploying Business Applications
The organisation now has a server in place, a 1:1 employee:computer ratio, and its staff trained in the use of the computers. The next step is to focus on group productivity applications and the core business applications. The first category of applications are critical because all employees are part of groups groups with a goal. This is where the new breed of social software applications can make a big difference. Whether it is the use of group calendars, discussion forums, weblogs, wikis, shared workspaces, news aggregators or social networking software, the aim is to ensure that individuals can collaborate better with each other.
The second category of applications is focused on encoding the core business processes and creating the information flows so that decision-makers within the extended enterprise have access to the right and most recent information. This is what so far has been the domain of the big companies. Now, however, it is possible to cost-effectively deploy integrated eBusiness suites to makes SMEs intelligent, event-driven and real-time. Integrating with the cellphone networks is now becoming important this is a world of, in Intels words, mobilised software.
Start and Finish IT
The entire 4-step process should be done in a time-bound manner. IT needs to be treated as core infrastructure by the SME just as one would think of the manufacturing plant and machinery. It is the way businesses use technology that can make give them the competitive edge.
Tomorrow: Web Presence