Imagine a Michelin-level chef setting up her kitchen. She chooses the best ovens, appliances, knives, and pans, putting thought into each decision. Yet she doesn’t lose sight of their collective purpose: helping her create world-class entrées.

That same focus on outcomes should be true with IT decision-making, for a restaurant or for any small or medium business (SMB). IT is a means to an end. Yet the technology can seem so complex that it’s easy to get lost in technical details—to make myopic decisions based on speeds and feeds.

Today it’s more important than ever for business leaders to adopt a thoughtful decision-making process for their IT investments, and to maintain a clear focus on business outcomes.

Why IT spending is accelerating for SMBs

SMBs are spending unprecedented sums on IT. Their global spend will reach $1.35 trillion in 2024 and keep growing by 5.7 percent annually through 2028, according to Techaisle. It’s not because SMBs are flush with cash—their budgets are as lean as ever. Their world is changing due to three main drivers:

  • Cybersecurity: Nearly 43 percent of cyber attacks now target SMBs, according to a recent Accenture cybercrime study. Eighty-three percent of SMBs say that cybersecurity is their number-one challenge, according to a recent TechValidate survey.
  • Remote and hybrid work: Remote work is now fundamental to business operations. But diversified work locations require a much better network built for secure connectivity anywhere, for any user to any app or device.
  • Technology as differentiator: SMBs recognize that technology is the key to their competitive advantage and growth. The network is their backbone, and they need to leverage it creatively and effectively to deliver amazing customer experiences.

5 tips for better IT decision-making for your business

It is clear to see, the stakes are high. So how can you make better business decisions around IT? Follow these five guidelines.

1. Identify your desired business outcomes

Smart decision-making about technology doesn’t start with technology itself. Begin with the end in mind. A zoomed-out view leads to big-picture success. I recommend SMBs ask these questions to drive IT decisions:

  • How can we enable our employees and unleash their full potential?
  • How can we enhance our workspaces for health, safety, and productivity?
  • How can we deliver amazing customer experiences that set us apart?
  • How can we empower our lean IT team to be more efficient and innovative?

Mike’s Bikes, a regional chain of 16 bicycle shops and two distribution centers, took this outcomes-focused approach. Staff wanted to eliminate the frustrating process of manually printing price tags for thousands of products, which had to be changed with each sale or promotion. A simpler, more powerful network with Meraki MX security and SD-WAN appliances allowed them to transform this process with digital price tags, which also aligned with the company’s sustainability goals.

2. Prioritize cybersecurity

“Good enough” security doesn’t cut it anymore. Too much is at stake. But here’s the challenge: SMBs with lean IT teams don’t have the bandwidth to manage complex, advanced cybersecurity solutions or products from multiple vendors.

Tarrytown Expocare Pharmacy solved this challenge with Meraki MX for integrated networking and cloud-managed security that could meet their rapid growth. Without expanding their IT team, they were easily able to set up and deploy systems that manage sensitive data, with no compromises. Meraki gave them superior security across all of their existing locations (and eight new), with an integrated firewall that blocks 98 percent of malware, and is backed by Cisco Talos, one of the world’s largest threat intelligence teams. Even better, Meraki secure networking proved easy to manage with a user friendly dashboard, giving complete network visibility.

These integrated solutions aren’t limited to big businesses. Today they’re available—and necessary—for SMBs to level up. It all starts with Meraki, the ideal foundation for secure and high-performance networking that delivers impressive business outcomes.

3. Choose scalable solutions to meet tomorrow’s needs

After you identify your current needs and challenges, look ahead to ones you may face in the future, known and unknown. With this perspective, choose IT solutions that won’t become obsolete in six months and are scalable, expandable, and upgradeable. You’ll be much better prepared for growth with cloud-delivered, cloud-managed agility—what I call the “infinitely upgradeable cloud.”

Once you have a foundational, secure network with Meraki, for example, you can effortlessly expand it to new locations. Through Meraki’s platform approach, you can easily add smart security cameras that monitor foot traffic in a retail store, or IoT sensors that monitor temperature or detect water leaks in a warehouse.

Seeing firsthand what a product can do helps you visualize its uses for your business now and in the future. Demos and free trials are a smart way to see tech in action and ensure you’re putting your budget to its best use. You can test drive Meraki with a free trial to experience its cloud management and scalability. You can also explore a marketplace of integrated, third-party apps to leverage your network in hundreds of new ways.

4. Avoid solving point problems with point solutions

You can easily purchase a “box” to meet an immediate need. Problem solved, but is it really? A one-off approach, repeated with a dozen vendors, leads to a cobbled together network that is unreliable and difficult to manage for small, resource-constrained IT teams. Underlying complexities persist, demanding a more comprehensive and sustainable solution.

I’ve seen lots of businesses struggle with this. The answer is to prioritize scalable solutions (as mentioned above) but also converged solutions for simplicity and control. Combined networking and security is especially impactful. Today, SD-WAN and firewall security can be converged in a single device and managed through a single cloud dashboard. For businesses like Mike’s Bikes, the Meraki dashboard transformed and simplified their day-to-day operations.

5. Find a long-term strategic partner to advise you

You need an IT consultant who listens. That’s the advantage of working with a Cisco partner. They will have strategic conversations with you about the challenges to solve and the business outcomes you want to achieve. Cisco partners bring a wealth of knowledge and access to the broadest portfolio of networking and security solutions in the world. A dedicated Cisco partner can help you level up your business and expand your ideas of what’s possible with top-notch solutions.

Cisco Meraki is built to deliver business results

When I reflect on these five guidelines for SMB IT decision-making, all roads lead to Meraki. From the ground up, Meraki was designed for simplicity and scalability, combining superior security with the best network performance.

Think of Meraki technologies as the premier tools of your kitchen. Orchestrate them to cook up delightful new experiences for your customers and employees, and to develop new recipes for business growth and success.


Explore what’s possible with Meraki


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Roy McLean

Global SMB Chief Technology Officer

Global SMB Sales