The technology industry has decided on the second approach, by offering products that can scale with your business without limiting your growth or requiring big upgrades.
Productivity and collaboration tools
Consider Microsoft's Office 365 for example: the suite can scale from one user to tens of thousands. Early-stage businesses may use only basic features such as email and productivity applications. By the time a business reaches 50 or more employees, Office 365's collaboration tools and business intelligence features come into their own. Large businesses can go all in. The extra features are always available as you grow - additional functionality is within easy reach rather than requiring the implementation of a completely new process.
Another technology that starts simply and can add sophistication as you grow is IP telephony – phone services delivered over the internet. You might start using IP telephony as a standard voice service, only adding a switchboard, voicemail, systems to create conference calls, and more as they become necessary.
Unlike analog alternatives, IP telephony is also ready to integrate with mobile devices and software. Again, those extras come without the need for a disruptive upgrade, therefore offering a growing business the chance to quickly adopt the kind of communications services customary at big business.
Brad Little, managing director of networking equipment vendor Netgear, recommends growing businesses nail down the basics and adopt good practices early, before growth exposes under-investment in critical areas. For example, “It is vital to back up your data on external storage systems,” he says. “Use a separate server to house your files or take advantage of cloud storage to ensure that any data loss or incident can be recovered from quickly.”
Setting up solid back-up and quick recovery can save a growing business from having to learn the hard way.
Point of sale technology
Vaughan Rowsell is founder and chief product officer of POS software developer Vend. He also suggests growing businesses adopt tools that offer access to features they may not need today, but will be useful in the future. Retailers, he advises, should “ditch the clunky cash register for a cloud-based point-of-sale system.”
Such services can help you ring up sales on day one but, over time, can integrate with accounting systems, analytics tools, loyalty schemes and more. “You’ll save huge amounts of time and money, and will find it much easier to manage your growth and keep track of the business,” Rowsell says.
Align technology with business goals
But technology can only do so much alone.
"To grow quickly, small businesses need to put the customer at the core of their business, to drive their data and digital strategy,” says Aniqa Tariq, managing director of consultancy Bluewolf ANZ. “They need tools that provide actionable analytics and improve data quality to translate overwhelming collections of data into intuitive, automated customer and employee experiences.”
Tariq says that when the technology investments of a growing business align to customer experience and business outcomes, “companies can generate better forecasting, greater efficiency and reach revenue goals, while improving or creating new products or services and marketing potential. No company can remain static. Those that budget for innovation, prosper.”