I have spent over 15 months working in a pre-sales role for a large partner of ours in the UK. In this role, I specialised in Microsoft Office 365 and the story around the ‘Modern Business’.
It’s a simple concept really; you embrace cloud computing by moving your infrastructure and applications into the cloud. This introduces you and your staff to a standardised technology platform, new ways of remote working and those who really understand the benefits start to look at higher level applications such as business intelligence and “Big Data”. Data analytics is a lot easier to do with the horse power of the cloud behind you but also makes it accessible to small and medium sized businesses from a cost and technology perspective.
For example let’s look at another analytical app, CRM. Without a CRM tool how can you centrally manage your clients’ relationships, look at who is costing you money, who are your best clients or identify cost centres and big spenders?
In short you can’t, because it’s too difficult to do. Sure, you might have a vague idea of big spenders. But times have changed and maybe they don’t spend as much as they did historically yet you still have your best people working on that account.
Contrast that to a company that at a click of a finger can trace marketing activities through to sale, identify clients who spend and those who don’t, track client history and see what, why and when they purchase, helping you to identify patterns and trends within your business base, while making sure you don’t have a high cost resource working on an account that will never give you a justifiable return.
The vast majority of our UK-based clients, ‘get’ this concept of a ‘Modern Business’, based on transparent technology that delivers huge business benefits through deep analytics. They see the business value of the story and are very open to the idea of increasing productivity. Of course, they also want to know more about how to become more efficient, more informed and make sure they have the latest technology at their disposal.
These clients ranged in size from five to 5,000 employees yet there was no difference in attitude. The enterprise accounts expected solutions that delivered these insights and services, and the SME market were keen to achieve the same using the same services because they see themselves as equally important.
SMEs might be less cash rich than their enterprise counterparts, but they’re nonetheless prepared to invest modest sums in an IT architecture that can deliver proven business benefits to all their staff. They’re open to the concept of using technology for business transformation.
But I’ve noticed a puzzling pattern when it comes to SME technology adoption. It seems that many businesses don’t value themselves enough or fail to see the benefits and opportunities of investing in the latest technologies. I know that the economic slowdown hurt us all, personally and in business. I don’t think any of us can say it was easy. But technology in that time has moved on and the era of cloud is here and with it the ability to have enterprise-type functionality at a fraction of the cost of the SME solutions we are all using or are used to using.
But why is it that companies fail to buy into the vision of what can be? Why does the conversation always end with the familiar “I’m not sure if we need all of that, we’re getting on fine without it”. I’m always stumped when people do not see the exciting world of the modern work place.
But my concern for SMEs runs deeper than that.
I know of a young graduate who has come straight out of college and thanks to a challenging interview process in Facebook will join their cyber-bullying task force on a starting salary of €65K p.a. You might ask what this has to do with my ramblings but it’s closely linked.
Millennials are attracted to these type of companies because of the technology and culture that they breed. There is an inherent risk for all SMEs who resist technological change like cloud – change that enables a different type of work culture. By not allowing themselves to change, by not wanting or striving to be more than they can be, by remaining shackled by a habitual modus operandi, they risk falling behind the competition and simply becoming irrelevant in the market.
Change is something that we all are afraid off, and that can look like many things; a change of technology, a change of expenditure model, a change in the daily routine. But things that are hard are rewarding, change is rewarding, and being a leader in your space is very rewarding. Don’t wait for the bus to leave the station and then try to catch it. Be the one driving the bus. Be the one leading the direction of your market segment and be the one that strives to be better that you can be.
By embracing this way of thinking, you will ensure that you are always on the latest and greatest technology. But that in turn will change your culture and changing your culture will bring with it, rewards in the form of young, highly qualified employees whose ideas, passion and energy could be the difference between an innovative market leader and a mediocre market follower.