Small and medium businesses need to leverage technology to promote growth. However, like many often-used phrases, the catchphrase “leveraging technology” is used in so many ways, it almost loses its meaning.
The question should be, “How can SMBs use technology to establish a long-term competitive advantage?”
SMBs are slow to leverage technology
When a business leverages technology, that digital transformation will make fundamental changes in the way it conducts every aspect of its business. SMBs can achieve that change by leveraging the technologies that are being introduced at an increasing rate.
However, SMBs aren’t the first to do what’s necessary to achieve digital transformation. According to research done by the SMB Group, only 48 percent of SMBs are planning to find ways to move toward transformation, 36 percent have started to do things that will support transformation and 16 percent have no digital plans in place.
It’s critical for SMBs to leverage technology
This lack of progress comes at a time when the need for transformation is becoming ever more important. The digital age has changed the way people interact with one another. As a result, customers expect to have that same freedom with the brands they buy from.
These customer expectations exist for all businesses, regardless of the size of the organization. A number of trends are driving this imperative for digital transformation.
People are changing the way they want to work
The days when everyone in a company worked in the company’s physical location are going away. Today, many businesses need to develop new ways to support employees when they are outside of the office or telecommuting.
The technology needs to support letting employees conduct business from their telephones, including checking email, responding to meeting requests and more.
Customers are changing their expectations
Often, the biggest challenge for SMBs is attracting and retaining customers. Being responsive to customer expectations is a critical factor in meeting that challenge.
Technology can help SMBs improve the customer experience by being accessible online, providing self-serve capabilities, collecting and responding to customer information, and much more.
Technology is evolving to provide answers for companies of all sizes
Strategic business consultants are quick to point out that, regardless of a company’s IT maturity level, management can take the company to the next level with a well-planned cycle of improvement. In today’s environment, there’s no reason why SMBs can’t use the same type of technology that serves large enterprises.
The price of technology is falling and the capabilities offered are increasing, as these examples show:
- SMBs can use technology to integrate workflow automation to buy back time to focus on critical business innovation.
- Chatbots can take over customer service tasks that include interacting with customers, answering routine questions and routing telephone calls.
- Social media management becomes much less time consuming and more effective when software such as Hootsuite is used to eliminate many of the time-consuming and repetitive tasks that are required to maintain a vibrant social media presence.
- Online project management software is helping companies of all sizes track projects and provide a platform for communication among team members.
- Cloud-based accounting systems are making it simple for SMBs to produce invoices, send them via email, and keep track of revenue and expenses. These systems also integrate with complex accounting programs like QuickBooks. As a result, business owners no longer need to supply accounting activity to their CPA manually.
This partial list of technology demonstrates how an SMB can transform many of its processes to save time, reduce costs and improve competitive advantage. The results that are produced when companies leverage technology can be truly impressive.
Looking to the future
The things SMBs have done in the past to be successful won’t work as well in today’s digital world. Building a brand, responding to customer expectations and developing a strong competitive advantage is within reach of SMBs who leverage technology and take digital transformation seriously.