A remote workforce, distributed teams, and the use of contract labor are facts of operational life for almost all small and midsize businesses today. In order to collaborate, these far-flung teams are using a variety of free and paid services (for example, Dropbox, Google Drive, and others) both to share documents and store data. Coupled with the rising bring-your-own-device trend, the diffusion of data across multiple services and multiple devices is posing significant enterprise risk in terms of potential data loss, security breaches, and regulatory compliance to small-businesses CFOs. A 2010 Ponemon Institute study determined that the average cost to a business of each lost laptop was a little more than $40,000. Further, insurance-industry data provider A.M. Best found that 51% of midsize businesses that suffer a catastrophic data loss shutter their doors within two years.
Clearly, without centralized data storage, without enforced policies across multiple locations, employees, and devices, small and midsize businesses are living dangerously.
One way to mitigate risk is to invest in an enterprisewide solution that standardizes on a single tool for centralized document storage. As CFOs go down this path, they will be challenged in three key areas:
To navigate these challenges, and to make this important and complex investment decision, CFOs need to think about the future needs of their organization across a number of dimensions. The degree of anticipated growth, both in staff and data, plus the desirability of making a large capital expenditure versus an operating expense over time, will figure into deciding what type of solution is right for the business.
One midsize health-care industry software company, for example, had a geographically dispersed, multidevice workforce that shared content across multiple and disparate databases, servers, and e-mail. Although the company could have benefited from a centralized data-management solution, it did not want to invest in a full-blown IT infrastructure for a firm of just 50 people. Therefore, it chose a consumerized plug-and-play, cloud-based platform for its file auditing, management, searching, and security needs, and so far has been happy with the operational simplicity it has provided for a relatively low capital expenditure.
Finance executives of small and midsize companies should approach the diffusion of data within their organization not only as a risk to be mitigated but also as an opportunity to be seized: to increase collaboration and improve the productivity of the virtual teams that are increasingly becoming the norm in business today.
Singu Srinivas, a partner at Waterstone Management Group, has nearly 20 years of experience working with Fortune 500 and smaller high-growth technology companies. His experience has centered on creating growth strategies, developing go-to-market capabilities, and enhancing the operational effectiveness of B2B and B2C technology companies, as well as the services arms of manufacturers, retailers, and ISPs. Neil Jain, a principal at Waterstone, has more than 15 years of experience formulating growth strategies and improving operations for companies in the software, hardware, and telecom industries. Meredith Tierney, a senior associate at Waterstone, also contributed to this article.