Many small businesses are being held back because they are only scratching the surface in the use of technology, according to a leading IT expert.
Roman Paljk, the Auckland-based managing director of IT solution provider Virtuoso says too many business owners think it (technology) is expensive, and too many business managers think it is too hard to set up software that could do more of the work.
"Our experience of working with SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) tells us they can often achieve much more than they are currently doing in terms of leveraging existing technology – often exploiting what they already pay for," he says.
"Indeed, most are only using 20 percent of the software they are paying for in their monthly SaaS (software as a service) systems such as Microsoft 365."
Virtuoso was co-founded in London 11 years ago by two Kiwis, Markus McIver and Greg McCallum. It opened its Auckland office last year through which it provides outsourced technology services - and is helping Kiwi firms to increase productivity through more effective use of technology.
Its reputation was forged in the UK, one of the most competitive markets in the world. Paljk says Virtuoso has lived through the transformative effect of Microsoft datacentres on local shores has had on the technology landscape - something soon to happen in New Zealand.
Paljk says a lot of Virtuoso's consultancy work involves giving clients the confidence to let their computers do more of the routine work. "Nearly every time we visit a new client, we discover a wide range of add-ons they are paying for within their Microsoft subscriptions which they could be using," he says.
"In the past 10 years a lot of the powerful apps that were once the domain of larger enterprises are now available through cloud computing – and users can scale those subscriptions up and down as required – be it a CRM (customer relationship management) system, tools to increase productivity, data management, or providing more accurate and timely information."
Another example is cloud computing. Co-founder McIver, recently back from the UK, says it is surprising how many local firms still run servers on-premise: "This not only exposes them to more risk and complexity but running IT in-house takes the focus away from their core business."
Paljk also worries that too many companies are using outdated apps and systems that are no longer supported - again increasing complexity and risk.
"There is so much opportunity to be gained from embracing modern tools and systems," he says. "But you need to have a growth mindset to be comfortable with change.
"Our role as a technology partner has shifted from 'keeping the lights on' to advising how organisations can make the most of their technology investment and we have proved time and again that a little advice goes a long way – no matter what area of business clients operate in."
McIver says security is also an issue for a lot of firms. Very few of those Virtuoso engage with meet the basics for securing their information from hackers.
"We have seen so many firms whose systems are vulnerable to attack, we have heard about plenty of near misses where data breaches could bring a business to its knees, or where unauthorised staff could gain access to sensitive data," says McIver.
"Allowing staff to work from home creates a whole other level of risk that needs to be managed."
Among the early wins for Virtuoso in the local market is working with MyPractice, a company that provides a platform used by GPs and doctors' surgeries to manage patient appointments, billing, and communications.
Cornelius Dirven, commercial manager at MyPractice says he needed a credible alternative to what his firm was using.
"We needed something evergreen that would have consistent performance among each of our customers, be able to be scaled up or down easily, and provide a great end-user experience," he says.
MyPractice signed up 100 customers to its public cloud platform within two months of switching to Microsoft Azure. With help and support from Virtuoso, the process was fast, seamless, and cost-effective.
Paljk and McIver say one of the key benefits of working with their firm is its strong relationship with Microsoft and access to the tech giant's ecosystem of solutions that only keeps getting better.
The full Microsoft Azure suite of products that includes Microsoft 365, computing, networking, databases, analytics, AI and Internet of Things - will all soon be delivered from New Zealand-based data centres.
"Having Microsoft data centres in New Zealand is going to have a transformative effect on IT here," says McIver. "Once clients understand the Microsoft value proposition and the benefits of working with a partner whose sole focus is realising those benefits – then it increases their confidence in technology and us as a company. These tools reduce complexity for clients while increasing security and reliability."
Paljk says that with trusted IT advice and the Microsoft backbone, business owners can concentrate on building their business, while allowing technology to empower their workforce and keep them one step ahead of competition.