Friday, 4 June, 2010

Technology -- What , When and How??

Any SMB (small and medium-size business) works and proceeds towards growth path, obviously by reducing cost and increasing Sales (and hence profitability) . But the question remains: How to reach there? It was mentioned by Jeff Stiles, the senior VP of Small-Medium Enterprise Marketing at SAP, that the only solution for a constant growth of SMB’s is to "embrace new technologies". With the advent of technology, not only the working methodologies become trouble-free but the pace at which things can be done increases manifolds.

One of the major challenge faced while decision making by an organization is about,'what, when, and how much' to invest on a technological solution. It is very crucial for any SMB to comprehend the various facets where technology plays a vital role in their business growth. To begin with, it is essential to focus on 'increasing productivity' which is clearly determined as 'how to do more with less'. One easy way to attain ‘efficiency’ is to invest in products designed especially for SMB's, are scalable and affordable, proposing a 'plug and play' solution. Software like Dropbox, an online virtual storage utility that allows synchronization of files across various systems wherever the client is installed, is a perfect paradigm of saving time at a negligible cost. This revolutionized way to store and share files leads to a non-stop communication process as opposed to tedious methods of e-mailing and flash drives.

The launching of new technologies constantly alleviates some fundamentally essential tasks to be performed smoothly and without a hitch. Today, personal computers with a fixed work station are turning history and slowly but surely are taken over by the 'mobile revolution'. This new generation of smart phone is supported by ubiquitous high-speed web connectivity. A lot of work turns handy with such software like QuickOffice and ScannerPro, which smoothens tasks like transferring PDF, Microsoft Office and iWork files to other devices like printers, mailers, networks etc. without further ado. For SMB's, getting accustomed to these applications would not only emerge to be cost effective but also profitable by saving time on these petty tasks.

Being the biggest category of planned investment expense, technology can lead to a dramatic increase in productivity, resulting in more output, without necessarily adding to the 'staffing expense'. The emergence of online communications, with launching a great website, an awesome navigation and content, an email newsletter to reach people right in their email inboxes, blogs to foster more conversation and boost the web sites rankings in search engines is a mark of "Web 2.0" technology. Through this the organization can ensure that the website enables visitors to communicate & connect with the company as well as each other. This unified communication network is integrating the operations of ticketing portal '', who have hired, trained and developed only two technicians for this 'Search Engine Optimization'.

The 'augmented reality' of trends in applications also implies in depth awareness about ‘outgrowing’ of current tech solution for a SMB. Consequently, while investing in a technology it is more important to implement it in an efficient manner. The investment in right kind of technology can help the business reach the next higher level and retain more customers. Along with a right choice, it is also essential to integrate it with various aspects like CRM, supply chain management, billing/payment, innovation tools and R&D processes. It is equally important to train and develop the workforce to make sure an optimum use of technology and an overall advantage for the company’s expansion. The amalgamation of cheap and abundant knowledge available to the customer along with skilled personnel is another key to a successful technological investment.

During recession a lot of businesses were forced to 'retrench'. Most of the "growth companies" claimed the usage of online payment methods like 'PayPal', during the economic downturn, as compared to the "staying afloat" or the "sinking ship" companies. This method ensured an immediate payment, while keeping the cash afloat in the market. The simple adaptation of online invoicing and payment method helped these businesses to use customer generated funds to fuel their overall growth. The credit card companies are also introducing ‘payment via swipe on mobile phone’, which could mean a big changes for small businesses, part-time vendors, boutique owners and even small individuals like a florist.

I have seen people handling Multi-crore Business without a single computer installed (yes this is India, everything is possible) and witnessed a vegetable vendor sending e-cards on Diwali. Both knew Technology is important the latter was using it without any precedence whereas the former didn't in-spite of a imminent need.

The simple fact is people still don't know how and whom to approach to fully benefit form technology. This gives a huge opportunity to IT Co.'s ( i hope they are listening) to tap the SMB sector which account for 40 % of all exports. The winner amongst the IT co.'s would be the one who reaches out to SMB's , as there are lot of services available but people just do not know about them.

A computer peripherals co.'s CEO used to courier CD's of Posters and Catalogs to its Branches office till recently , before they knew about a . Well i personally feel that, this is one service which has lot of scope for a software co.'s to look into and most of them are going into the "Cloud"

The mantra, in that way, is to learn the basic principles of leveraging technology to make the business stay: prolonged, flourishing and on the rise. Only adequate and appropriate investments can help in reaping big rewards, now and in future. Updating technology, thus, helps in collaborate the our efforts to meet customer needs by 'serving' them better and as for the IT co's they just need to stamp their products straight on to our face for us to notice them.

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