Any business owner knows that IT can be both a blessing and a curse. PCs, mobile devices, business applications, and cloud services improve efficiency and productivity, and they help level the competitive playing field. But those same technologies, when not properly managed, can be a huge time sink.
Small businesses are often stuck in a rut spending valuable time on IT issues rather than income-generating activities that grow their own businesses, according to Matt Schvimmer, a general manager at ServiceNow, an IT service management software specialist.
"In the world of small business, these folks have really tight budgets and don't have a lot of people" to expertly manage their IT resources, Schvimmer told Small Business Computing. One of the many hats that business owners end up wearing often includes IT manager.
And that can lead them to neglect some vital requirements for operating a healthy company, like customer service or drumming up sales.
Not only do they wind up shortchanging other parts of the business that require their attention and expertise, they give their own IT operations the short end of the stick. "They are more generalists than specialists," said Schvimmer. Without the day-to-day experience of running an IT organization, these generalists "recreate the wheel every time a problem arises."
Fortunately, the cloud can help.
Cloud-based IT Service Management
ServiceNow Express, which launched late last year, brings cloud-delivered IT service management (ITSM) to small businesses. Typically considered an option for larger enterprises, ITSM refers to a process-based system of delivering, managing and servicing IT resources and services.
Among ITSM's many benefits is that it helps streamline the problem-resolution process; it lets businesses quickly identify problems and fix them with repeatable best practices—no more frantic Googling or starting from scratch when issues arise. It also provides much-needed visibility into IT environments. "IT in these small companies is a complete black hole," said Schvimmer.
Now small and midsized business (SMB) IT workers can maintain their environments like the enterprise pros, courtesy of their favorite business technology equalizer, the cloud.
ServiceNow Express automates IT incident and change processes, moving service tickets along toward a speedy and successful resolution. More importantly, it helps free administrators from the most inefficient of IT management tools: email.
Ditch the IT Inbox
"It's amazing that email is the work system for a lot of these companies," said Schvimmer. Email is inherently unstructured, he argued, making it a poor substitute for structured, repeatable, and automated approaches to IT management.
"Personal productivity tools are no way to run an IT organization," Schvimmer wrote in a recent blog post. "Without visibility into IT requests and incidents, IT teams struggle to prioritize and assign work to the right expert, resolve bottlenecks, and provide timely responses to employees."
ServiceNow Express also provides asset tracking, creating an interactive single system-of-record for a business' complete IT environment. Overworked IT staffers are no longer required to load spreadsheets to keep tabs on a company's devices.
For small businesses with dedicated IT teams, visual task boards let managers assign and manage work with drag-and-drop ease. Finally, single-click reporting keeps business leaders apprised of the impact of their IT investments with eye-grabbing visualizations.
ServiceNow Express provides more than 150 report templates as well as pre-configured workflows to help businesses get their ITSM initiatives underway. Self-service and knowledge management capabilities further help lighten the load for IT workers. The company claims that, taken altogether, its service can slash the time it takes to resolve issues by 20 percent.
ServiceNow Express is available in the U.S. and Canada. Subscriptions start at $50 per user per month (minimum one-year contract).
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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