The advent of enterprise level, low-cost technology powered by the cloud is continuing to transform the competitive landscape for many SMBs. With the number of US SMBs fully adopting cloud technology set to double by 2020, many businesses are already gaining a crucial competitive edge.
Despite its rapid advance cloud technology still has many business owners confused: what is the cloud? where is it? how do I make use of it? At its heart cloud computing removes the need to install software on your personal computer or company network. Instead software (security / payroll / HR) is provided for you as a service by another company and accessed over the Internet.
In recent years many software providers have switched to cloud based business models. This has offered increased flexibility to vendors, which in turn has reduced the costs of software for many SMBS. In 2016 progressive small businesses will grow faster by harnessing the power of cloud technology in the following areas:
1. Customer Experience
Quickly surpassing traditional keys to success such as product quality, value and customer service, Customer Experience (CX) is set to become the business metric for 2016.
Best described as the process a company uses to track, manage and optimise every interaction with its users, customer experience is on the rise. A recent report by Gartner found that the number of companies expecting to compete heavily on customer experience has doubled (to over 80%) in the last 3 years.
The rise of CX management technology is enabling SMBs to better understand their users and individual touch points in the sales cycle. Whether managing user feedback, personalising experiences or building customer loyalty, smaller businesses will use technology strategically in 2016 to optimise all areas of user interaction.
In the chain of transactions a business operates, a tight integration of cloud services can provide compounding growth for many SMBs. Deloitte has found that SMBs using an above average number of cloud services tend to grow 26% faster and become 21% more profitable on average.
There are a myriad of different integrations available to businesses operating cloud based software. A progressive SMB in the retail space might adopt and integrate cloud software to manage point of sale, accounting, employee management and payroll services. Each provides ample value but it’s via integrating services that companies can develop a competitive edge.
The connected SMBs of 2016 will integrate cloud technology to manage all aspects of business operations. In doing so business owners will use the resulting data and insights to streamline operations, improve visibility, drive decision making and reduce costs.
3. Productivity & Efficiency
Tata Communications cite increases in productivity as the most common gain in adopting cloud technology. For many business owners this has meant adopting integrated cloud services to manage all aspects of their SMB, from sales operations to network security. Most importantly, the time saved via streamlining operations has allowed many owners to focus on what matters most – business growth.
Many business owners are also seeing large gains in productivity from the coupling of cloud technology and mobile devices. Giving employees access to their files and colleagues anywhere, anytime and from any device, through technology like a cloud phone service, can spearhead collaboration and workplace efficiency. Whilst workplace communication and tasking better handle workloads and improve communication with managers.
In late 2015 Wakefield Research surveyed 700 SMBs about their cybersecurity measures. An interesting finding was the amount SMBs estimate a cyberattack could cost them in 2016. Respondents in the US estimated the cost would be over half a million dollars, while those in the UK and Australia estimated closer to $300,000.
Concerns about cloud security and data protection are rarely backed up by a wealth of evidence. A Microsoft survey found only 20% of SMBs viewed cloud based solutions as less secure than on-premise alternatives. Although SMBs should always investigate the controls providers have in place, most vendors provide the latest, enterprise level security methods and encryption at a fraction of the cost of company managed alternatives.
5. The Competitive Edge
Many SMBs using cloud technology are already enjoying the benefits that levelling the playing field brings. Nearly 90% of all SMBs are forecast to use at least one cloud service by 2018. The more progressive will already be planning how to expand their portfolio, harnessing technology to drive their businesses forward.
Getting on top of the latest services and integrations is a must for business owners looking for competitive advantage. For many businesses strategic use of technology will be the key differentiator in 2016.
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