When you start a small to medium-sized business (SMB), startup costs are always a concern. Where is the best place to invest capital to ensure yours is a winning SMB? Do you put more cash toward inventory, marketing, staff? One area where every SMB can make a smart investment is technology. Having the right technology to support your business is a great equalizer in a competitive market, and it can deliver the efficiency and intelligence you need to keep your business rolling toward success.
SMBs are some of the biggest consumers of technology—and with good reason. Research from SAP SE shows that SMBs that embrace technology grow faster than those that don’t. According to that research, collaborative software leads and is used by 50.6 percent of SMBs, followed by CRM at 38 percent, and business analytics at 37 percent. SMBs also agree that technology streamlines operations and improves productivity and that participation in the digital economy will be essential if SMBs are to survive.
Five Technologies for the Winning SMB
SMB executives understand that they can’t keep pace with all the latest technology trends, but strategic investments can improve operations, make employees more efficient, and attract and retain customers. Here are five technology categories where winning SMBs invest first:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) – Enterprise CRM software used to be one of the tools that separated the big guys from the smaller companies, but thanks to software-as-a-service platforms, CRM systems are now affordable for any size business. When properly applied, CRM can be your best tool for building a winning SMB. CRM does more than tracking sales prospects and customers; it consolidates all the data you need about your customer base, giving you data for analytics that can deliver new efficiencies and increase profits.
- Smart inventory management – Poor inventory management is a huge waste of operating capital and is one of the primary reasons why SMBs fail. When you are operating with a limited budget, you have to look at inventory as cash; you want to put it to work, not leave it gathering dust in a warehouse. Using technology for inventory management is like managing your money, and it improves efficiency and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
- Business intelligence – Data-driven decision-making is what helps businesses grow. When you are starting out, crunching numbers in spreadsheets may give you the intelligence you need. However, as you gather more data about your operations, you need to apply more sophisticated analytics to reveal trends and show you what is really going on. Even big data techniques are now being applied by winning SMBs.
- Data security – Technology adoption also has made SMBs prime targets for cybercriminals. Because SMBs tend to have fewer IT resources, 43 percent of cyberattacks target SMBs. Ransomware in particular has become an epidemic, and 60 percent of SMBs report closing down within six months of a data breach. To survive, SMBs need to make cybersecurity a priority, protecting not only data stored on company servers but also on workstations, laptops, and mobile devices.
- Communication and collaboration – Successful SMBs are built using tightly integrated teams that work closely together to keep the business productive and agile. To promote better teamwork, more companies are breaking down barriers to collaboration by adopting smartphones to connect their teams. Using both bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies and integrating remote users into the business infrastructure with tools such as Spoke, SMBs are enabling team members to use their own smartphones for telecommunications, conference calls, data exchange, email, chat, and more.
Cloud Computing, Mobile Devices, and Collaboration
In addition to these five technology categories, winning SMBs understand that ready access to business-critical data is what gives them a competitive advantage. That’s why more SMBs are adopting cloud platforms and mobile computing to promote better data access and collaboration.
Cloud computing has leveled the playing field when it comes to access to the latest technology.
Big or small, any organization can take advantage of a Salesforce or Microsoft Office 365 license to help run its business. Cloud-based applications are affordable, scalable, secure, efficient, and accessible! Business-critical applications hosted in the cloud are available anytime from anywhere.
This is why more SMBs are adopting BYOD strategies and allowing employees to use their smartphones for business. A smartphone puts cloud computing in your pocket, accessible by using mobile apps or portable web browsers.
Cloud computing and portable devices work together to promote better collaboration. More employees are telecommuting or working from remote locations, and smartphones allow them to connect via text, chat, email, teleconference, or even telephone. They can share the same data and work more efficiently, even when they are out of the office.
Extending the Office Phone to Smartphones
As companies standardize on employees’ smartphones for office computing, communication, and collaboration, applications such as Spoke are proving to be a valuable technology tool. Spoke takes collaboration one step further by extending the office phone system to employees’ smartphones. Calls to the office are automatically routed to users’ smartphones, and Spoke enables familiar phone features such as voice mail, smart directories, call transfers with presence, and group calling.
Thanks to technology, SMBs can be more efficient and more competitive, and adoption of cloud computing solutions and mobile devices for data access can extend that efficiency beyond the office.
Giving your team the ability to collaborate and respond to business issues in real time is what will give your operation the adaptability and agility to outperform larger competitors. Let’s face it: For winning SMBs, technology puts success in the palm of your hand.