How digital tech can ‘level the playing field’ for SMEs

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By Sridhar Iyengar, MD of Zoho Europe

Many modern-day organisations operate almost entirely online. Shopfronts have been replaced by website home pages, customer service requires a certain level of email etiquette and a much more tailored approach, and gone are the days of paper salary payslips.

Thus, the correlation between company ‘size’ and its ‘success’ has been blurred to the point where a start-up can have the virtual image of an industry giant, and manage a global organisation with ‘virtual offices’ as opposed to a physical presence in different countries.

However, digital transformation isn’t just about throwing up a façade of smoke and mirrors to trick consumers into investing in its service. Cloud-integrated software-as-a-service (SaaS), customer-relationship-management (CRM), and Human Resources Management (HRM) tools are just some of the services which have allowed start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs to professionally manage infrastructure and administration whilst keeping costs and employee onboarding very low.

This is not to say that large organisations can’t, or haven’t, effectively implemented their own digital transformation initiatives, but, SMEs are in a unique position whereby many have been born into the era of cloud, software and managed services.

Therefore, SMEs have not seen a loss of profits or stagnation of business as they strip down outdated systems and dysfunctional servers which have been in place for years.

It’s clear tech investment is the way forward following an economic ‘Brexit bounce’ – in fact, a recent survey saw that just less than one third of SMEs are planning to boost their tech spend in 2020.

SMEs which are not already tech-infused must prioritise the digitalisation of their entire structure, both internally and externally.

SMEs should take to the time consider the right technology partner to aid their digital transformation

This does not just include the very basics of cloud-integrated email systems, communication apps or data storage, but also SaaS solutions which will manage and record finances (including invoices, subscriptions and expenses); Sales and marketing (such as CRM, social media and e-commerce), and finally, IT, HR and company housekeeping.

Without implementing these services, SMEs are passing up the opportunity to gain a foothold in extremely competitive markets.

An SME which does not have these digital management techniques in place, is doing so to the detriment of its own profits and internal operations – shining a brighter light on close competitors which offer a similar service but have indeed gone through a complete digital transformation process.

What’s more, with Brexit over, a new financial year on the horizon and improved economic clarity for the first time in almost half a decade, 2020 looks to be a great year for corporation of all sizes (not just SMEs) to simplify their digital platforms, cut the slack, and boost workplace efficiency and thus profitability.

Admittedly, this is easier said than done, and SMEs should take to the time consider the right technology partner to aid their digital transformation – one which aligns with their growth objectives and enables them to be agile, offering, flexibility, continuous innovation and scalability.

All too often, we see small businesses opting for a range of different cloud solutions, thinking they are getting the best of each service, only to find out that the tools do not work in conjunction with each other, or require complex integrations. This may require paying for a tech partner or specialist to assist, which is not always an option for an SME.