Why fast and flexible connectivity is key for ambitious SMEs  

Jon Nowell, above, Small Business Director at TalkTalk Business, discusses why prioritising a fast and reliable network is the essential foundation for the digital transformation of SMEs

Across all sectors, businesses are embracing digital transformation. Promising a multitude of benefits and opportunities, digital transformation is more than the introduction of new technologies into the workplace. It reflects industry-level innovation, achieved by embedding digital solutions into the core of businesses’ operations. In this new era of efficiency and change, keeping up with technology has become essential for maintaining a competitive edge.

SMEs prove no exception to this. As large-scale businesses continue to reap the rewards offered by digitalisation – from increased and faster access to information, to easy integration into global markets – many smaller and mid-sized firms are keen to follow suit and utilise technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence to unlock new levels of growth.

But technological innovation can’t be successful without the right foundations in place. Having access to a fast and reliable network, which can support this new age of digitalisation, is becoming key to the successful growth of SMEs.

Why is digitalisation so important for SMEs?

It’s no secret that the past few years have proved challenging for most businesses. External pressures such as the cost-of-living crisis, geopolitical tensions and the Covid-19 pandemic have created a turbulent environment for firms of every size to navigate. From spiking fuel prices to supply-chain disruptions, these recent events are proving to have a long-lasting impact on business operations across the world.

As demonstrated by the pandemic, when lockdowns forced businesses to change core operations overnight to stay afloat, flexibility and agility are vital for continued success and survival. And in many cases, the speed at which businesses are able to adapt is determined by their digital maturity.

Larger brands are already turning to technology to improve operational efficiency, customer service and employee satisfaction, whether that be through the adoption of AI or a hybrid working model. The Forrester Predictions 2023 report, for instance, found that the majority of enterprises currently have investment in AI and are seeing positive results.

According to the World Economic Forum, around 67% of small to medium sized businesses are currently fighting for survival. If smaller businesses want to thrive, it’s crucial they remain resilient to challenges and are forward-thinking in their approach to operations, to stand out in competitive markets.

The advantages of technology 

So, what exactly can digital transformation offer smaller businesses?

A key benefit offered by technology is increased flexibility. Hybrid working is a clear example of this. Research conducted by CIPD found that 83% of employers have now implemented a hybrid working model, with 38% of organisations stating that this has improved operational efficiency. The success of a hybrid-working model is underpinned by the ability for employees to remain connected, made possible through services such as cloud-based storage and secure access to applications.

Technology can also provide SMEs with increased operational efficiency while enhancing overall customer experience – a crucial ingredient for continued growth. For example, AI and automation can enable businesses to utilise vast amounts of data to provide an analysis of trends and forecasts of demand in stock. It can also allow organisations to provide a uniquely tailored approach to customer service, considering behaviour trends of shoppers or service users and offering anything from personal product recommendations to automated customer service.

With so many potential benefits, it’s important that SMEs know how they can make the most out of the technology they invest in, and how to ensure that any moves towards digitalisation are as efficient and successful as possible. 

Laying the foundations for growth

For any business, the success of investment into new technology depends on having the right foundations in place. Having a fast and flexible network connection allows for continued and reliable access to important data and services, unlocking efficiency gains – this has never been more essential.

With hybrid working increasingly the norm for many companies, more and more organisations rely on cloud-storage to enable their widely distributed workforces to collaborate effectively. But if their network connections are slow and unreliable, as well as impacting productivity, it can quickly lead to frustrated employees who are unable to complete day-to-day tasks or access the information they need.

It can also hinder valuable data analysis. If a network can’t handle vast amounts of data, then the technology that relies on it, such as AI, won’t function optimally. This could lead to missed opportunities for innovation or efficiency gains that might just give an SME the edge it needs. 

That’s why a growing number of forward-thinking SMEs are adopting strategic network solutions like dedicated leased lines, which provide rock-solid, high-speed connectivity. With these foundations in place, these SMEs are leveraging new technologies to strengthen their position in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

Preparing for the future 

As the reliance on cutting-edge technology continues to grow amongst SMEs, so does the need for an ultrafast, ultra-reliable network. For any business looking to grow, they need to make sure they can effectively support the technology and innovation that will give them a competitive edge.

While solutions like dedicated leased lines might be a significant investment, ultimately the cost of slow and unreliable connections can be much greater in the long-term.

The age of digitalisation is here – SMEs need to make sure they make the most of it.