SMBs: Downsize to upscale

The competitive nature of the business world is something all companies have to contend with, big or small. But it’s fair to say that for SMBs the challenge is much greater – not only are they in competition with each other, making up 99 per cent of all EU businesses, they also face a fight to gain equal footing with established enterprises operating within the same space, who generally possess greater budgets, reach and heritage.

This makes asset management, investments, and ROI all the more important for SMBs – there is very little room for error and money has to be spent in the right places. For some businesses this means prioritising other investments over IT costs. However, what we are seeing is that those businesses which embrace the right kind of technology – mobile technology – are the ones thriving, growing faster, and competing at the forefront of their respective sectors – utilising IT to give themselves greater business agility and a competitive advantage.

IT is an enabler and always has been. And with the speed of IT innovation we are currently experiencing, this is more the case than ever before – technology is not only advancing businesses in terms of productivity and connectivity, it can also be instrumental in helping an SMB to minimise costs elsewhere, putting less pressure on finances and allowing smarter investments in other areas within the company.

Pause on property

Undoubtedly a major expense for any business is property. According to DTZ research, London is the most expensive city in the world in terms of annual individual workstation cost ($29,340), with Paris, Zurich and Geneva also featuring within the top ten. Major cities of course remain central business hubs, but mobile technology is fast removing the requirement for businesses to be based within these prime locations. Business-built devices are designed to enable workers to perform at maximum productivity and see their office as being wherever they are.

For example, Toshiba’s Portégé Z20t includes the connectivity ports and in-built security tools to allow employees to remain well-connected in a secure manner whether they are in the office, visiting a customer, or working from home. With cloud technology providing easy document access and a host of business applications tailored to different work-streams, SMBs can downsize on office space, relocate to a cheaper area, or even dismiss a central HQ altogether. Not only will this remove or reduce rental costs, utility bills will also drop with fewer people needing to work in the office every day. As pressure rises to reduce carbon footprints and go green, it is predicted that associated costs to a business will also increase over the coming years – providing another reason to invest in the mobile technology which enables the downsizing of office space.

Increasing headcount to increase output

Removing location boundaries also has wider benefits for SMBs. Even for those with a central office, there is no reason why, with the right IT infrastructure implemented, new hires need to be based within commutable distance. The door is opened up to a much greater pool of talent who can work from home or a local base, yet remain in touch to the extent that they could just as well be sitting at the next desk. A bi-product of this is extending the reach of an SMB at a much faster rate, further driving business agility – technology enables meetings to take place via video or conference call, but on those occasions where face-to-face is required in the likes of new business meetings, local staff can help to add that personal touch which may win a new customer. Similarly, reduced property overheads equate to more money to spend elsewhere in the business – and headcount is a good place to start. Not only can SMBs put more towards talent acquisition, they can also grow the workforce to enhance overall output – keeping customers, partners and investors happy, as well as the employees themselves.

Cost-efficient security

A common misconception around mobile working is that it leaves a business susceptible to security breaches. Managing employees across a range of locations can bring its challenges, with device control and mobile device management becoming all the more important. But with a well-executed IT policy, incorporating a Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) strategy which allows for flexibility within a controlled environment through offering a choice of pre-approved devices, SMBs can ease any worries around data loss or theft. Today, hardware which is purpose-built for businesses is created with security front-of-mind, so information on a misplaced laptop can be protected and remotely retrieved without necessarily investing in expensive subscription-based external software. There are also effective, free measures that should be implemented, for example restricting access on sensitive documents depending on job title and role.

The value of mobile technology is difficult to quantify given the savings to be made elsewhere in the business, and the scope to grow much faster in terms of increasing staff numbers and the locations of operation. However, to give us an idea, recent research suggests the top 25 per cent of SMBs are seeing double the revenue growth as a direct result of their eager adoption of mobile technologies. The role of such technology in making a successful SMB is swiftly becoming undisputed, so ROI on devices like the Portégé Z20t is clear and substantial. Furthermore, with initiatives available to provide full and long-term purchasing confidence, such as Toshiba’s Try and Buy and Reliability Guarantee, there really is no risk attached even to those businesses still wary of IT investment.

Neil Bramley, European SMB Director, Toshiba

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