How not to future proof your business | Apertura Designs

How not to future proof your business

We recently spotted an article authored by Debbie Mayo-Smith in the New Zealand Herald titled "Future proof your business". The gist of the piece is how businesses can use nominally free or affordable technology tools and services to improve the efficiency of business processes. While we absolutely support this general notion, the "shoot, ready, aim" nature of the way the advice is given is a prime example of how not to approach your business IT – especially if future proofing is in fact the objective.

The author cites an example of recommending a business to use Google Drive to solve a particular problem:

  • "My quick, easy, free solution which has worked beautifully for them was simply this. Why not open a new Gmail account i.e. yourbusiness@gmail.com. This will give you access to Google Drive which has the equivalent of Excel, Word and PowerPoint and online forms."

She then states:

  • "I know every IT professional will hate this advice but you know for businesses with simple needs it works brilliantly!"

A critical role performed by IT professionals is to advise customers objectively and without bias on what the best technology solution or service is for them. One aspect of this is to highlight any particular risks and downsides of a proposed solution, such that the customer can make informed decisions ideally in the context of an overall business technology strategy. IT professionals engage in many years of training, certification and practical industry experience in order to give qualified, expert advice – much the same way businesses would seek out tax advice from a qualified accountant, or building services from an architectural or engineering firm. Likewise, IT professionals would not presume to advise professionally on (for example) matters of motivational speaking.

Looking at the author's example (absent any detail), we can immediately pinpoint several areas where IT professionals may certainly have cause to question the advice given:

  • The business (presumably including multiple staff) is now using a consumer Google service. In the event of any problems there is no professional support available without upgrading to a paid service. Was any attempt made to advise them on this risk, or guidance offered on the professional support options available – before disaster strikes?
  • Google Docs file formats are not standardised. They are proprietary and closed. This means that document sharing and file interoperability with other organisations is impractical without employing workarounds, or the affected external users also signing up to the same service – which they may of course be unwilling or unable to do.
  • Was any attempt made to advise the business on Google's ability to: alter the Terms of Service, alter or remove features and functionality, increase the subscription fees, or terminate entire components of their product suite at any time for any reason and without any input on the part of the customer?

She finally states:

  • "It is non-negotiable today in business [sic] not be be 'smart' with technology. Knowledge and tools such as smartphone apps, online software (the cloud), everyday Office software. This Power will cut costs. Improve sales. Save masses of time. Keep your business going and personally help you lead a less stressed life."

We wholeheartedly agree – and we recommend business owners seek out expert advice from technology professionals to realise the benefits and avoid the pitfalls. Future proofing your business is not merely about employing technology to boost productivity, and we feel Debbie Mayo-Smith's article is mistitled in this regard. Choosing solutions that implement file formats based on documented open standards, code that can be used and developed freely without restriction, licensing terms that allow your business to grow without license management becoming an expensive hindrance, and thinking ahead to the potential exit cost of a technology solution are all ways businesses can truly future proof their technology investment.