In a downturn, cost cutting is the obvious choice for most companies and one of the target areas will be ICT (Information and Communications Technology). However, before making any hasty decisions, the ICT Cluster, supported by Advantage West Midlands, urges you to consider the role of ICT within your business and the potential it has to improve efficiency and productivity while increasing competiveness. Of primary concern is managing the ICT budget effectively but the secret to success is finding the right balance between reducing running costs and maintaining a long term investment in ICT. After all, maximising the use of technology will help businesses retain a competitive edge during the current economic climate and when the market improves.
The day to day running of critical services needs to be as economical as possible. A review of financing options offers scope for reduced outgoings from leasing of equipment to reduce short-term capital expenditure, to all manner of hosted and managed services. There are companies, for example, who can manage your software–as-a-service (SaaS) for a monthly subscription which means daily operation, support and maintenance are all run by a remote team of specialists without major capital outlay. For an SME, an expert third party will ensure the running of essential IT services leaving the company to focus on its core business.
In terms of investment, high on the list should be technologies and services that have the potential to reduce expenditure or increase productivity. Consider the implementation of voice over IP, for cost-efficient telecoms, or using energy efficient hardware. In terms of productivity, mobile technologies enable flexible operation and remote support; while business intelligence applications will improve data analysis leading to better decision making and improved performance.
The Advantage West Midlands ICT Cluster is also helping small and medium sized businesses in the region to realise the huge opportunity that lies in Open Source software which often provides the benefits of a proprietary system but at no purchase cost or licensing cost for the software. Open Source can be used for: web application developments, database developments, CRM systems, document management, digital archiving, online learning and training, systems integration and internet telephony.
On the other side of the fence, the recession is hitting ICT vendors through reduced demand. The ICT Cluster is helping local companies through this tough time with Advantage West Midlands funded initiatives such as iCentrum; which is designed to encourage business growth. iCentrum helps SMEs with practical ICT policy and advice including Customer Relationship Management and internet marketing, affordable web hosting and software and application testing.
With over 3,000 technology SMEs in the West Midlands region offering a variety of solutions, we believe that any company looking to reduce costs will be able to find a solution right on their doorstep.
Mike Musson, ICT Cluster Manager, Advantage West Midlands