While most Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) bring a more focused approach to their business than large companies, they tend to face the same challenges. Sure, they may serve a smaller geographical market or offer a more targeted line of products and services than bigger businesses, but the key to their success is still all about making customers happy and getting the most out of their time, money and workers.
To compete and succeed in an economy that favors efficiency and the ability to keep up with changing customer needs, companies of all sizes are turning to technology. And while this is nothing new, what is new is that innovation has turned the adoption model for technology upside-down. It used to be that large businesses were the early adopters of technology because of its high cost and complexity. But today, even small companies with tight budgets have access to the same types of technology solutions as their big competitors.
A great example of this is in the area of Unified Communications (UC). UC solutions can bring together phone, email, IM, and video conferencing to enable workers to be more productive. Studies have shown that, on average, UC saves 32 minutes of time per day per worker. This is a huge boost in productivity. But when UC solutions first came to market, they were very expensive and complex to install and support. Only companies with a dedicated IT staff and a big budget could make the investment and enjoy the benefits. Over the years, UC solutions have become very affordable and are even available for a modest monthly fee where there’s no upfront investment and no need to hire an IT staff. This has effectively leveled the playing field where UC is now affordable and accessible to companies of all sizes.
But innovation is not only helping to level the playing field, it’s also opening up the door to enable SMBs to gain an advantage over their bigger competitors. The recent proliferation of smartphones, tablets and the special applications designed for those devices are placing SMBs at the head of the pack. With the affordability of these devices, SMBs are leading the adoption in the IT trends of cloud services and mobility. Cloud services are applications and data storage that give SMBs the ability to conduct business from anywhere so that they can maximize their productivity and increase the time spend with customers and suppliers. And since these services are paid for through a monthly fee and are managed by the service provider they don’t require a big investment or IT team.
This gives SMBs an advantage in efficiency, cost and agility, but it’s important to note that the use of mobility, cloud services and UC solutions will place an increased importance on the computer and communications network at their place of business. With data, voice and video all converging on the network, care must be taken that it is designed to handle the increasing demands of this traffic, today and into the future. And, while it’s true that smartphones and many tablets are designed to run on a wireless carrier’s network, users will still need a reliable network at their place of work. With most wireless carriers eliminating unlimited data plans, it will become increasingly critical for businesses to have a robust Wi-Fi network in place to offload traffic from these devices.
With an increasing importance of their network SMBs may find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. The new technologies don’t require them to have an IT staff, yet they are becoming more reliant on their office network. Who will be there to help ensure that their network will work reliably as technology and demands evolve? For SMBs that do not have an IT staff, the answer lies in an IT partner. Today’s value added resellers and system integrators are not only there to help install new networks, their role has also evolved to be there as a virtual IT staff for their SMBs customers. Many of them will monitor their customer’s network 24 hours a day and provide preventive checkups to ensure that everything is running as it should.
Together, innovations in technology and the evolving role of IT partners will help ensure that SMBs not only succeed but thrive by keeping their customers happy and working more efficiently.