SMEs need to implement the correct ICT tools, to take care of their businesses – preventing loss of crucial records
23 Apr 2018
In today’s exceptionally competitive digitally-driven market, documents, files and systems are the most important asset for business. Everything in a business is replaceable, except for this data and software, which makes it critical for companies to put ICT tools in place to help the business extract value from data and applications, and prevent loss of important files, documents and even emails. While larger entities have an impressive array of ICT systems, devices, equipment and software that they use to improve performance and customer service delivery, smaller businesses battle to see the return on investing in ICT measures which means these companies do not have adequate technologies in place to help their business grow and maintain their competitive edge.
As the number of SMEs expand, so too does competition, which then results in price-cutting wars to attract or retain a dwindling customer base. This has the effect of eroding profits, which affects viability and decreases incentive for people to take that entrepreneurial leap to establish their own SME. It doesn’t have to be this way, as ICT can be used to play a pivotal role in helping SMEs create business opportunities and combat completive pressures. The right ICT applications can help SMEs to cut costs and improve internal processes, increasing their competitiveness by facilitating product enhancement through faster communication with customers. However, where do SMEs need to start, when it comes to ICT? It makes sense to start with the basics. Once the fundamentals of connectivity, communication, information management and data protection are in place, the SME will be more than adequately equipped to take on the world.
Build the right foundation
An air of professionalism and capability is something that is easy and inexpensive to create. By starting with the fundamentals, like a proper email domain name (and not gmail.com or outlook.com) SMEs can start to establish their identity. As an extension of this, it is necessary also to have the essentials like a website and a social media presence. These tools assume that the company already has the basics of connectivity in place, as customers and employees need to be able to communicate telephonically and electronically. Once these basics are in place, they need to be protected. This includes cybersecurity measures like anti-virus, firewalls and data security measures like backups and disaster recovery. It is important for SMEs to have data security and protection measures in place as soon as possible, to ensure that if information goes missing, business continuity will not be crippled. Not only do these basics of connectivity and communication present the business professionally, it can also enhance the appearance of the company, and make it appear much larger and much more efficient.
Acknowledge the value
ICT can have a massive impact on a smaller company. If the right systems are in place and managed efficiently the business is better able to adapt and respond to change offering the advantage of agility, which is something that most large corporations lack. Because it’s not a case of needing to buy new equipment to respond to change, the smaller company can easily tailor their business applications to suit their evolving needs. However, this means that SME owners need to move past their apprehension that technology is unaffordable and complicated, because it isn’t. The reality is that smaller businesses cannot afford not to keep up with the times in a hyper-connected world. By using the appropriate ICT tool it becomes possible to automate processes and certain communications with customers. This means that fewer human resources are required, and less time needs to be spent on administrative tasks. If a business is using their social media platforms actively, the feedback gathered in this manner can be used to improve product viability and service delivery and can also be used to identify and respond to problems proactively, instead of reactively.
By making use of information management tools, it becomes possible to utilise the business’ data on its customers and sales, through analytics to draw business insights and start planning for the future. All of this is only possible, once the business has the basics in place. Once the SME has these right, it becomes a lot easier to adapt and grow as the business matures.
Towards a competitive edge
A small enterprise will benefit from the ability to get their product or service to market quicker, enjoying a competitive edge if information is held digitally and is easily accessible. When information is securely held and easily accessible, company representatives will be able to serve customers quicker and improve productivity and efficiency. In the SME space, it is possible to get to a point where everything is automated, and it’s quick and effortless for the customer. As such, ICT can be used to take care of the back-office work while humans are out front, interfacing with the world and handling the exceptions.
While the SME owner might feel like taking such a technological leap is a risk, it’s even more of a risk to do nothing. When considering investing in technology, an important aspect to keep in mind is document and application theft or loss, which can lead to reputational loss in the industry and even result in the business shutting its doors. In addition, without the correct data management framework businesses are unable to service their customers due to inaccurate customer information, which causes these customers to become irritated and take their business elsewhere. Data protection is important to think about from the start, when implementing any ICT solution, as it can have a massive impact on continuity and can quite literally make or a break a smaller business.