Even At The Smallest Companies, Connectivity Drives Growth
By Bob Violino
Original Article Here
Some small business owners might balk at the value of having a fast and reliable network to underpin digital communication and access to information.
Skeptics might argue that they’re not big enough to support a network, and that consumer-level products are working just fine.
But for small businesses to expand, tech is critical.
In fact, 48 percent of the 300 U.S. small business executives surveyed by Forbes Insights and Cox Business said adopting new tech was a major factor influencing future business growth over the next three years.
And when new tech succeeds, there’s usually a sturdy network behind it.
The survey specifically asked executives at businesses comprising 5 to 15 employees how connectivity can benefit companies like theirs, and 40 percent cited cost savings and improved cost structure.
Three other benefits followed close behind: Thirty-eight percent cited the benefits of working remotely, better integration of digital resources and improved network performance. Thirteen percent cited improved voice and data communications.
Connectivity also provides a better experience for customers through faster access to products and services, according to 56 percent of respondents. Through the lens of the customer, connectivity also helped businesses roll out more digital options, such as mobile apps and websites. It also gave customers seamless access to the business across platforms and channels, the survey found.
Using Information Strategically
Small businesses are no different from the largest enterprises when it comes to the importance of connectivity, said Craig Mathias, principal at the IT advisory firm Farpoint Group.
“The really successful organizations use information strategically,” Mathias said. “The more efficient access to information resources is and the more robust your communications are — whether it’s video, voice, data, messaging — the more likely it is that your company will be competitive and successful.”
Farpoint Group itself illustrates the value of connectivity. The small business “would not exist,” Mathias said, without robust communications and connectivity.
“We’ve been using wireless technology since I founded the company, and it has made an enormous difference in terms of how effective we are” at serving clients, he said.
Survey respondents cited complete communications solutions (22 percent), networking software (20 percent) and increased use of cloud computing solutions (13 percent) as the solutions or strategies that small businesses need to ensure the success of their business model.
But getting better connected via technology may not be easy. The biggest challenge facing small businesses as they scale up, according to 31 percent of survey respondents, was understanding changing technology needs and what products and services to use.
Other challenges include finding reliable, ongoing IT support for expanding technology resources (17 percent) and providing connectivity to all employees (15 percent).
A key challenge historically is the complexity of the technology, according to Mathias. Companies that lack the expertise in-house to harness the necessary technology might turn to an expert who understands and can “properly manage the systems, including selecting, configuring and installing equipment, as well as ongoing support,” he said.
Data security and ease of use are always concerns, Mathias said. If the connectivity technology is not secure or is difficult to use, its value to the business will be limited.
A key development of recent years that’s transforming the use of technology is the emergence of the cloud as a vital IT resource, Mathias said. With the cloud, companies no longer need to deploy, configure and manage local servers to support applications and connectivity, marking a fundamental shift in how technology is applied within organizations, he said.
“Today you can host everything you need in the cloud,” Mathias said. “That’s an enormous technological transition. We still have a long way to go in terms of the ease of use of information technology. But this shift offers a huge opportunity.”