Technology for start-ups

START UPS AND FINDING THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY

 These days technology is an integral part of any business – big or small. Legislation and compliance requirements mean managing lots of extra data. The industry is constantly under the scrutiny of HMRC, so however small, you’ll need some sort of “integrated system”. That’s not all bad. Cutting down tedious admin tasks through automating processes gives more control over the business, more efficient staff, and better customer and worker relationships.

So where to start?

When you are starting up you can probably identify a few standard tools and software systems that will help you get on the way. But assuming you want your business to grow, it’s best to take a longer term view.

 First analyse your business and map technology onto the business plan. Here’s some basic questions:

  • Is your business high or low volume?
  • Are you predominantly temporary, permanent or contractors? It’s important as many solutions are geared only towards perm.
  • How do you want to operate – how quickly is planned expansion
  • Define your strategy. If you plan on starting and staying operating as a “one-man-band” then you probably only need basic technology. But if you plan on expanding – either geographically or into different markets this will affect your choice.
  • Are you going to operate in a specific niche market? (Construction, Education, etc.) The industries you plan on operating in will affect which software you should be looking at, e.g.
    • If you are providing supply teachers – you will have a lot of CV’s, availability requirements, skills searching and criminal record checking to process. But if you are supplying pickers to warehouses applicants may not have a CV or specific skills so will apply though an application form. The processes are different –different workflow pattern, different booking structures. Software veers towards satisfying different needs.
  • Document the requirements of all operations including HR, sales, finance etc.
  • Define target margins/ capacity/ balances/budgets/returns etc.

 

Understand the terminology e.g.: Back Office/Mid Office, ATS, CRM etc. How the system does some of this will affect the running of your business. Remember technology should link all bits of your business together. Anticipate potential changes, adding unplanned technology can add to cost. And don’t forget to set timeframes and budget parameters.

The options

Basically there’s bespoke, in house, “off the shelf”, cloud based services and outsourcing

Bespoke is expensive and often takes a long time to deliver, so unless your business is very unorthodox you won’t need this. In house development has pitfalls, for example your “in house” developer could well move on, leaving you in the lurch.

Off the shelf solutions usually fit the bill. Just make sure it’s from an established company who offer regular updates and ongoing support and development. A cloud based solution has benefits in a small start-up environment as you don’t have to install any software. Just login to the cloud from most web-enabled devices.

With outsourcing you’ll need to calculate the quantity of current and anticipated transactions that you are paying for ( e.g. if you outsource payroll elements at say £1 per payslip that may seem OK – but if you are in a business generating a lot of payslips on a weekly basis that can soon mount up!)

Creating a short list

Do some research. Trade associations, supplier directories and advice from legal experts can be invaluable. Check specialisation in business sectors and temporary or permanent. Look at the cost options (licence or lease arrangements, annual support costs, training costs, updates, and guarantees regarding future costs – especially with outsourced/third party hosting solutions.)

Make sure the front and back office systems work properly together – if the two are linked properly there is no need for duplication. It’s best to go to one supplier so that there is just one business to call to solve any issues. Most suppliers offer an on-line demonstration of their software- this is a good place to start.

Final choice

Here are a few simple questions that you could ask to help

  • What if something goes wrong?
  • How secure is my data?
  • Can you guarantee that all my data will always be accessible to me (even if it is held on a third party server)?
  • What sort of back up or disaster recovery is in place?
  • If volumes of candidates fluctuate and volumes become higher – will the system cope and what are the cost implications?
  • How will the implementation be managed, by whom and what are the timescales?
  • Who should be trained and what will be involved?
  • How is ongoing training managed and how is the cost structured?
  • Who will be supported after the system is live?
  • When is support available and on what basis?
  • Ensure you’re clear on the support that will be offered to you if it’s part of a licence fee.
  • Ask if you can speak with a couple of the potential suppliers customers
  • Check the suppliers background and ensure they have a product roadmap

Be prepared for the new software

  • Make sure you and everybody who needs to use the system is trained and using it to best effect
  • Make sure you understand the support that will be provided and the timings of updates
  • After a period of time review the system and see if you need to make any upgrades or tweaks to make it work better for you. Involve the supplier in this process – it’s an ongoing working relationship you have entered into.