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smb avoiding misdiagnosis

Avoid misdiagnosing your business 

by ​​Bill Robertson
 
In the modern medical world, the proliferation of online resources and “symptom checker” apps has contributed to the dangerous phenomenon of online misdiagnosis. While great in theory, making people think they can triage their own health issues raises some obvious concerns.

The glut of information online has created similar challenges for people looking to identify problems within their business, especially when it comes to technology and processes. The sheer volume of available resources is part of the issue. A simple Google search for “how to know if you have been hacked” nets more than 20 million results—often providing incongruous or directly contradictory information.

This tends to be particularly vexing for small and midsized businesses. Sticking with the medical analogy, a large enterprise can afford to keep a team of specialized doctors and nurses on the payroll (IT architects, security experts, BPM specialists) who have the expertise necessary to identify and treat specific problems within their field. Small businesses often don’t have the luxury of hiring specialists, so many business owners turn to the Internet to self-diagnose that strange rash their business has developed.

Most of us are smart enough to defer to experts when it comes to our health, so why do so many people rely on their own laymen research to make decisions about the health of their business? How can you avoid falling into the misdiagnosis trap? 

​Most of us are smart enough to defer to experts when it comes to our health, so why do so many people rely on their own laymen research to make decisions about the health of their business? 

Turn to the experts

The fact that nearly any cloud technology solution can now be had with a few clicks and a credit card has complicated the issue of misdiagnosis. It’s like being able to purchase powerful medical interventions over the counter. Just because something is easily available doesn’t mean it’s the right option for you—especially because many solutions don’t interact well with one another. It’s still important to consult an expert about which cloud services can address your needs most effectively and plot a coherent strategy for adoption.

Turning to a partner with a local presence in your region can provide personalized support and expertise, and build a suite of connected services for your unique requirements. They can prescribe a connected set of solutions, provide a vital outside perspective and help you anticipate issues before they arise—all while leveraging your previous investments. Many of these providers specialize in industry verticals such as retail, healthcare or law as well, which can make their insight even more valuable.

It’s often fairly obvious when you have an acute technology problem. Your computer is giving you a blue-screen error, you can’t connect to the Internet, etc. With technology, the challenge lies in finding the cause and fixing it. Unfortunately problems within your business processes can be much more nebulous and difficult to identify.

The only “error message” you might get is a dip in revenue or increase in costs, but tracing that back to the source isn’t easy. What’s more, you may have a number of outdated processes sapping productivity, which are surviving simply because it’s the way things have always been done. Bringing in an expert consultant can help provide a fresh perspective on where the breakdown in your processes may be occurring.

Keep in mind, by transitioning technology or business processes to a third party, you also transition the responsibility for keeping them up and running. This effectively limits the possibility of misdiagnosis by reducing the variables your business needs to consider. Doing so also reduces the amount of time and internal resources you must dedicate to non-essential workflows or maintaining technology, allowing you to refocus them on growing your business.

​With technology, the challenge lies in finding the cause and fixing it. Unfortunately problems within your business processes can be much more nebulous and difficult to identify.

 

Consider the source

This is not to say that small business owners shouldn’t be doing their own homework about parts of their business that may be outside of their personal areas of expertise. Being well informed is a key component of any decision, but not all sources of information are created equal. There isn’t exactly a high barrier to entry for posting something on the Internet, and it has an incredible ability to allow spurious information to spread like wildfire.

Before making any decisions about your business or technology based on something you read online, do a bit of checking into the provenance of the information. If it’s an article, what’s the author’s background and area of expertise? What sort of evidence is cited in their guidance? Is it coming from, or sponsored by, a brand? If so, what’s their motivation or what are they trying to sell you?

Before making any decisions about your business or technology based on something you read online, do a bit of checking into the provenance of the information. If it’s an article, what’s the author’s background and area of expertise? What sort of evidence is cited in their guidance? Is it coming from, or sponsored by, a brand? If so, what’s their motivation or what are they trying to sell you?

 

Take this article for example. I’m writing this because it’s a growing issue I’ve seen among the small businesses I work with and because I genuinely believe our audience will benefit from thinking critically about the problem. That said, I’ll be the first to admit that we have a vested interest in increasing awareness around the potential dangers of misdiagnosis within small businesses. We offer a range of technical and professional services that can help address the very issue I’m discussing here, so that fact needs to be considered when deciding how much stock you put in the information.

 

As you may have guessed, I also believe that transparency and disclosure are critical elements of the equation. If a resource attempts to obfuscate the fact that it’s partially designed to sell you something, then any of the advice provided should be taken with a particularly large grain of salt. 

Take a holistic view 

Interested in learning more about finding and fixing inefficiencies within your company? Our business process services experts can help. 
 

Striking the balance

This guidance may feel somewhat conflicted: trust third-party experts but don’t be too trusting of external resources. The trick is to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism while also being honest about the limits of your own knowledge and capabilities as an organization.

Fortunately, when people think something might be seriously wrong with their health, they tend to seek out a doctor or specialized help. Many businesses would benefit greatly from the same treatment.

The most effective business owners know what they’re great at and try to minimize the amount of time they spend on things that aren’t areas of strength. Technology and business processes tend to fall into the second category for many smaller companies. Leaving those pieces to the experts can avoid the significant time, cost and headaches that can result from a bad self-diagnosis. 
 
Bill Robertson
Bill Robertson, Senior Manager, Professional Services Strategy at Ricoh USA, Inc., brings over 10 years experience in the technology industry with expertise in targeted growth, business development and new product development and launch. A customer advocate and innovator by nature, Robertson is an AIIM-certified Information Governance Specialist.