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Head in the clouds: how SMEs can use connected technology to their advantage

(Image credit: Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

With meteoric rises to the top of their respective industries, companies like Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, and Deliveroo represent a very modern fairy tale for fledgling businesses. And as with any fairy tale, it’s a well-trodden story that we can recite by heart: young companies disrupting the established businesses within their respective industry and building a new empire on a foundation of technology.

In each story technology is depicted as a magic weapon – the answer to every business challenge, no matter the industry. However, as any business expert will tell you, nothing is that simple. For every Netflix, there is a LoveFilm; for every Uber there was a Kabbee or Hailo – companies with similar uses of technology that have not come close to the success of their competitors.

While a core part of any business model, it’s time to bust the myth that technology is a short-cut to success. What’s more, simply throwing money at the problem is no guarantee of solving it. And for SMEs – most of which operate with limited budgets – ensuring that they are investing in the right technology can be a significant challenge.

Customers come first

So, if tech didn’t set those businesses apart then what did? Businesses putting their customer in the heart of their operations will always win. Those who will listen carefully to the needs of their customers and adapt their businesses to their demands are set to success. For all shiny technology, Netflix wouldn’t have got far without understanding how and why people want to watch TV and films.

Seeing the beginnings of a change in market demands – the trend for ‘on-demand’ viewing – and capitalising on the emerging technology trends – in this instance, the rise of mobile devices among an increasingly connected society – Netflix built the foundation of its business.

The story, however, does not end there. By continuing to listen to the demands of its customers Netflix has branched out, expanding beyond being a simple streaming service to creating its own programming. Now, with properties such as Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Daredevil, the organisation has proven time and time again the value of having an intimate knowledge of your customers.   

Most importantly, these lessons are directly applicable for any business, regardless of size, region, or industry.

Adapting to the fast-moving market

Being able to evolve your business – or if needed, revolutionise it – is critical to success. Throughout history organisations have lost their way, failed to change with market demands, and gone out of business. It’s no different today, except that thanks to the speed of the market, which now operates 24/7, this is happening at a faster pace than ever before. 

Crucially, being adaptable or flexible is not solely linked to answering customer demands. For any business to flourish you need to hire and keep the best talent; without them, you’re sunk! What’s more, ensuring that staff are happy is about more than the occasional perk or a Friday afternoon in the pub – the happiest workers are the ones who feel valued and listened to, who are productive and able to see the impact of their work. If they feel your organisation is unwilling to invest in them, or the ways they want to work, they won’t hesitate to leave.

As a business, you must be agile enough to embrace latest trends, whether this means remote working, flexible hours, or innovative resourcing models. As an SME or start-up, you already have a singular advantage over your larger rivals in that they can’t be as flexible in their approach.

Technology is, of course, central to this. However, as we can see, it’s not simply a case of throwing money at wall and hoping to see a return on your investment. Here are our three key tips to getting the most out of your IT…

Trust Your Employees:

At the heart of any business, is its workforce – and the more productive the workforce, the better the business.

To get the most out of employees, businesses must allow them to work in a way that suits them; after all, they know best of all what they need to be most effective. Is mobile working a necessity? Do staff have access to the date or software they need whenever they need it?

As an employer, you should be ready to invest in the technology that can unlock the skills of your talent.

Keep up with your customers:

Being a flexible business means being able to deliver what your customers want before they know they want it. Keeping close tabs on emerging trends in consumer behaviour – whether they seem relevant or not – will always pay off.

Take social media as an example. Now the go-to starting point for most consumers who are browsing online, the most agile retailers have already used technology to turn this behaviour into a selling opportunity with ‘tweet-to-buy’ options.

Plan for the Future Now:

Despite what people may tell you, no one can predict the future with unerring accuracy. New trends, the impact of emerging technology, and the demands of future customers are impossible to guess; but through wise investment you can give your business an adaptable platform from which you can flex to meet new requirements and opportunities, whatever they may be.

Speak to business and technology experts to ensure that you’re investing in technology that will allow your organisation to remain flexible.

Ultimately, technology can provide a clear business advantage, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Picking the right approach for your organisation – no matter the size – needs careful consideration, and should be informed by numerous factors, including everything from your own ambitions through to the demands of your employees and customers.

So, while tech alone can’t guarantee you a fairy tale ending, it can put you on track toward happily ever after.

Jim O’Hagan, B2B Business Development Director, Dixons Carphone
Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock

Jim O’Hagan
Jim O’Hagan is Dixons Carphone B2B Business Development Director.