IT Consultancy in Sheffield with Digital Direction
During the last 10 months I’ve been lucky enough to work with 37 different SMEs across the city as part of Sheffield’s Digital Direction programme. They’d all applied for IT support from the programme and my role was go out and meet with them and do some initial IT consultancy to establish their exact IT requirements.
I visited 37 companies - mostly small businesses with less than 20 staff though a few were larger. The number of companies by category is:
Engineering - 5
Retail - 5
Technology - 4
Training & Consultancy - 4
Marketing - 3
Industrial Design, Steel Stockists, Recruitment, Adult Care - 2 of each
- Laundry, Software, Logistics, IT, Construction, Conferencing, Knife Maker, Badge Maker - 1 of each
The next list is a breakdown of the type of IT consultancy & support required:
Internet Marketing/SEO/Social Media Ideas - 14
Back Office Systems (something specific to that business such as a stock control system) - 10
Customer Relationship Management (often an upgrade from MS Excel) - 7
- More generic IT Infrastructure (networking, basic stuff like email & shared file storage etc.) - 5
Not only did I get to visit 37 interesting and entrepreneurial Sheffield businesses but I also got some insight into the IT challenges faced by many businesses. Here are a few observations, thoughts and lessons learned:
- Internet marketing, search engine optimisation and getting a website up the Google rankings are a complete mystery to most people. There’s plenty of free SEO advice on the web but it definitely makes sense to pay a good consultant for a few days of expert advice. I was surprised how little people know about free tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. A lot of businesses struggle to find the time to create the volumes of high quality content that Google says are required to push a site up its rankings.
- Businesses that sell directly to consumers should be all over Facebook. I saw some great examples of retailers using Facebook to build and retain networks of loyal customers.
- Cloud based services like Office 365 and Google Apps for Business seem like ideal solutions if you’re a smaller business though I was reminded on a couple of occasions that, for the non IT person, they take a bit of effort and technical knowledge to set up.
- Some companies use very old software. We all know that Windows XP isn’t dead but there are companies out there looking for old copies of software on eBay because they need something that’s compatible with their other legacy systems.
- Growing companies quickly end up with large amounts of lead/customer contact data in multiple spreadsheets.
- I know it’s stating the obvious but mobile technology has massively changed the way we work. The IT infrastructure of one business I visited was basically two mobile phones. We’ve grown accustomed to working with smartphones but it’s good to be reminded that they’ve been around for less than 10 years and on more than one occasion I found myself thinking that the real impact of mobile technology (particularly tablets) on the workplace is still to come.
The Digital Direction programme is managed by our friends at Sero Consulting and there’s more about the programme here.