Leveraging technology to bring about change
Often, small business owners fight shy of introducing technology for reasons of cost, disruption and fear of the unknown, but the benefits generally far outweigh the challenges. The more you are able to successfully exploit technology, the greater the effect on your margins and profitability. Technologies that automate manual processes improve efficiency and accuracy, whilst reducing time, resources and the hidden cost of mistakes and miscommunication. Aside from day-to-day processes, technology can help open up new ways of doing business and help you leverage limited capital more efficiently.
Clearly, many different factors affect growth, some of which are covered in other articles in this series. Technology can help you minimise operating costs, drive productivity and improve customer service. Below are a few areas you may want to consider.
Financial technology has transformed the way businesses are run. Ever-improving accounting platforms enable owners and authorised users to access the financial position of their company at any time, from any location. Accounting software helps to keep track of invoicing, debt collection, payroll, supplier payments, expenses, taxes and much more, avoiding the risk of error from dependency on multiple spreadsheets.
Fintech tools provide you with greater insights through improved visibility of your cashflow and budget performance, resulting in better outcomes. Data security is tighter and auditing is faster.
Fintech has also reduced overseas transaction fees, making it easier to do business around the world.
The range of productivity software has grown exponentially, with applications available to cover every aspect of your business and improve operational efficiency. For example, time tracking software enables you to identify wasteful practices and improve accountability, processes and productivity. Project management tools can help you manage resource utilisation and control margins, and digital filing will make it easier for you to save, share and retrieve documents.
Cloud-based applications are generally better for SMEs, as they involve a lower up-front cost and impose less of a burden of in-house management, and can be used across a range of different devices and locations.
Growth relies on acquiring customers and retaining customers, and providing a consistently high level of customer service. Customer relationship management (CRM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) software integrates seamlessly with business communications systems to enhance customer service levels and improve relationships with your customers.
The challenge for many SMEs is knowing how best to leverage digital technology with a limited marketing budget. Most companies recognise the importance of maintaining an online presence, but do not have a clearly formulated digital marketing strategy, with the result that opportunities are missed and resources wasted.
Software can help your business perform better and grow by streamlining workflows and increasing collaboration between different marketing channels. A good website is a prerequisite, although too many are preoccupied with their visual appeal and the inclusion of content that is more important to them than their customers. An effective website is focused on its users and must be easy to navigate, mobile responsive and optimised for search engines. The use of social media, email campaigns, podcasts, and pay-per-click advertising enables businesses to reach a wider audience and garner brand loyalty.
They key is to develop a coherent marketing plan with clear performance measurements, and you can find software that will allow you to create an editable version that you can share with your team.
The work-from-home edict during the pandemic accelerated advancements in mobile technology.
Whilst the longer-term benefits of remote working remain a source of debate, the ability to have full office functionality from virtually any location is undisputed, providing scope for improvements in response times, efficiency and productivity, whilst offering greater flexibility of working arrangements with corresponding savings on physical space and running costs.
For optimal results, businesses should invest not only in mobile devices, but in cloud solutions that allow users to access the same applications and services from multiple devices and locations.