The rise of technology, particularly cloud-based technology, has revolutionised the way small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) operate. Almost everything can be automated, from administrative procedures to marketing. Although automation has already made it cheaper to do business, the increasing number of cloud-based technology providers means even greater savings. The big cloud service providers are vying for a place in an overcrowded marketplace. Consequently, they are finding it difficult to differentiate from other providers, so are forced to compete on price and rely on achieving economies of scale by even greater expansion. All great news for SMBs!
Advantages of Cloud Services
SMBs can make substantial savings by using cloud services. Paying subscription fees to SaaS providers, rather than buying upfront expensive hardware or software licenses, has meant a huge reduction on start-up and running costs. Even subscription fees are getting cheaper because of the competition between the big players. Some of them like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, and HubSpot are offering free trials, (some even free SaaS) to encourage long-term subscription to more advanced solutions.
SaaS can add to all aspects of business management, including integrated packages such as customer relationship management (CRM), human resource (HR) management, supply chain management, and account management. CRM systems, for example, can manage customer information, retention, and engagement; track sales; automate marketing of your brand, e.g. via email and social media; and conduct analytics to measure progress and milestones achieved.
Information Technology and Collaborative Software
We now take IT for granted as it’s so readily available to us. Gone are the days when expensive, bulky servers were needed to store information and hardware had to be installed on heavy desktop computers to run even basic programmes. Instead, we have cloud storage and cloud software applications which allow us to store vast amounts of information and manage programmes at a much cheaper cost. When you consider that documents used to have to be printed and posted to share information, you can see how far IT has progressed. Desktops, laptops, and mobile devices are much lighter and sleeker than they once were and are designed to incorporate most modern cloud computing systems.
- Operations are easily streamlined to improve efficiency, cut costs and save time.
- Information is shared more readily with stakeholders so can foster better relationships.
- Reach can be extended (globally if you want) to access cheaper suppliers and acquire more customers.
- Projects and staff can be managed
- Meetings and conferences can be held on the web allowing participation from anywhere.
- Customer service can be improved with automated email and call-back systems.
There’s no doubt cloud technology has been a game-changer in the way we conduct business and communicate with others. Being freed from mundane and time-consuming admin operations has allowed business owners to devote more time to their customers and to growing their businesses. Furthermore, cheaper mobile devices such as laptops, iphones and tablets make cloud computing more accessible so that business can be conducted anytime, anywhere – and who knows where ‘wearables’ may take us in the future. Business technology used only to be affordable to big business but not anymore. Fierce competition among providers means the cost of technology continues to fall, and SMBs are reaping the benefits.