With the advent of online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, critics have declared that we live in a “Golden Age of TV”. We now have easy access to an unparalleled selection of diverse TV content catering to the most niche tastes. Similarly, there has been a massive increase in the availability of pay-as-you-go software services over the last few years. While these were once the purview of larger Corp players, new vendors have emerged that provide highly functional and affordable software services geared at the SME market. At a “commodity” level, Google and Microsoft now offer budget-friendly access to online communication and collaboration tools for email, document sharing, and video/voice communications. These tools allow the SME to invest as they grow, negating the need for large upfront investments in servers and software. They also help reduce the pains associated with the “watering and feeding” of such systems including backups, security and upgrades. These tools help level the playing field between large incumbents and smaller, more agile businesses.
Specialised Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions now allow you to improve how you operate all aspects of your business. Many of these offerings provide trial periods to try-before-you-buy. Others have freemium plans that enable you to use them for extended periods, albeit at lower functionality. Typically, there are no upfront costs other than your own setup costs, and you can cancel them at short notice.
Online solutions exist for:
- Accounting (e.g., Xero, big red cloud, QuickBooks, Sage)
- Scheduling, Task and project management (e.g., Calendly, Trello, Asana, Basecamp)
- Customer Support and Relationship Mgmt (e.g., HubSpot, Freshchat, Bitrix24)
- Surveys and data collection (e.g., google forms, JotDot)
- Sales and Marketing (e.g., Salesforce, Mailchimp)
- Website/eCommerce builders (e.g., Wix, Weebly, Google sites, Sharepoint)
- Operations Management (e.g., netsuite)
- Purchasing/Procurement (e.g., Sage Business Cloud X3)
- Human Resource Management (e.g., BambooHR)
- Workflow and Process Management (e.g., Blocworx, Kissflow, Knack)
Throughout my career, I have seen businesses both underutilise and over-invest in technology. Many times, my investigations have shown that you don’t always need more Tech – often you just need to use what you have more effectively. This occurs for a range of issues but most often due to ineffective adoption management, i.e., highlighting the key benefits, and merely training users properly. This helps people overcome their fears and resistance. I’m a theory-Y guy, and I believe most people want to do a good job – you just need to provide them with the proper resources to do so. If you have 100 euro to spend on Tech make sure to keep at least 20% back to make sure it actually gets used effectively.
On the other hand, I have also observed businesses under-invest in affordable technology that could significantly impact their productivity or service offering. Business function experts, be they finance, purchasing or operations who really know their businesses can be anxious about technology adoption. This is often based on previous experiences linked to my earlier point, where users are forced to find ways to work around the ill-explained Tech and therefore never experience the benefits. Others have experienced outright failure of technology to deliver or have been oversold unnecessarily complicated solutions.
I get immense satisfaction in finding that “digital sweet spot” – that affordable solution – which, when implemented correctly, can really transform a business. NASA scientists refer to the goldilocks planet – the one with just the right mix of characteristics that can support life. Similarly, I believe that there is a Goldilocks Technology Solution – the sweet spot for technology. Not too much – not too little, but just the right amount!
My business objective is to continue leveraging what I have learnt in my earlier career as a Quality/Operations Plant manager and latterly as a senior IT leader. I feel that this provides me with a unique perspective as a Business-IT bridge builder and my vendor-neutral service ensure my client gets the best solution for them.
In upcoming blogs, I will share ways that SME’s can evaluate, select, validate the benefits, implement and run the most impactful technologies. This will evolve over time into a Digital Adoption Handbook for SME’s.
Please feel free to sign up to my weekly Newsletter -Digital Adoption for SME’s – i.e., Short bite-sized chunks on how to grow your business and cut costs by leveraging technology. I’ll also keep you updated through this when the complete handbooks is available.
As always, your thoughts and feedback would be most welcome.
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