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It’s never been a better time for SMEs due to digital transformation

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy)

It’s never been a better time to be an SME due to their agility and IT capabilities, but many SMEs aren’t aware of this. Nowadays the ability for businesses to react and adapt quickly to change is vital to grow and maintain a successful business.

It was less crucial in the past, when the speed of doing business and technological change was slower. But adaptability is now the key and SMEs have a big speed advantage over large corporations, which gives them a huge competitive advantage. 

Adaptability is the key in superfast moving markets

Many hugely-successful companies such as Blackberry, Kodak and Blockbuster were once market leaders with huge marketing budgets and healthy bank balances.

But they and others like them went bankrupt or were forced to leave the market and sell the business, often because they were too slow to adapt to change, amongst other reasons.

This matters for SMEs because speed beats perfection nowadays. The ability to implement changes quickly can make or break a business in superfast moving markets. Thus if you’re late to the game, you’re not just late: the market is normally sewn up and the game is usually already over.

The Cloud is a massive game changer

Of course SMEs have always had a speed advantage over their larger corporate competitors but they haven’t always had the same IT capabilities (storage, communications and computation power) to compete and grow their operations.

In the pre-Cloud era SMEs couldn’t afford the high initial costs required to create a vast IT infrastructure capable of supporting a growing business. This restricted growth and put SMEs at a significant disadvantage to large corporations.

And in today’s highly digitised world strong IT capabilities are crucial for all businesses to help them cope with the demands of the ultra-fast speed of change and innovation.

But thanks to pay-as-you-use services and the economy-of-scale of the Cloud in general, SMEs now have the same access to IT capabilities as large corporations.

This combination of factors is a massive benefit for SMEs, providing they understand the situation and learn how to use digital technology (including the Cloud) effectively.

See table 1 below for an illustration of this.

What does this mean for SMEs?

Although the Cloud has democratised IT capabilities for SMEs, many aren’t making the most of this game changer.

But you don’t have to have a dedicated IT manager now to make the most of this as there are many solutions and companies that support these functions for SMEs in an affordable way.

And you don’t have to have huge budgets for services either. There are a lot of IT tools available to SMEs that used to be very expensive but are much more affordable now, with many freemium data storage and transfer services now on offer to SMEs.

The remote working revolution

One of the greatest developments the Cloud has offered SMEs is that it enables remote working.

There’s no need to have a physical office anymore, which brings huge cost savings, as tech allows team members to work remotely and access company IT capabilities from anywhere in the world.

This means you can attract talented and experienced contractors and freelancers to support on projects and ongoing work so you don’t have to invest in full-time employees. And you can also choose the best people for the job, no matter where they are located in the world.

More and more SMEs are now hiring teams of freelancers or contractors as a cost effective solution to grow their businesses but working together with a virtual team does need careful management.

This makes it crucial to identify the right online platforms that enable teams to work effectively together.

For example, platforms like Evernote allow teams to capture, organise, find and share information and ideas from anywhere, which makes it especially useful for teams separated by locations or time zones.

No two teams are the same

Virtual team members are based in different locations and, often, in different time zones and different countries and cultures. So you need to think about the unique situation of each team member and understand that each one is living and working in a totally different environment.

You can use the Swissôtel Etiquette Mapto to learn the business etiquette in different countries around the world to understand the countries your teammates work in.

You should also speak with your colleagues in the Human Resources teams in the countries your virtual team members are based in to help you learn the laws, policies, or standards in the countries your virtual teammates work in.

You can easily save and share this information with teammates for quick reference by using a shared notebook on a platform like Evernote.

Using the right channels

For virtual teams to communicate effectively each team member must pick the right communication channel for the right task. You should agree as a team which communications should happen, via which channel, in order to create the effective communication your virtual team needs to succeed.

It’s up to you and your team to decide which channel is best for each communication task. But remember the hierarchy of communication (face to face, video call, call, email, text) and tailor your communication needs accordingly.

Also, ensure that every communication is perfectly clear about the three W’s: WHO, does WHAT, by WHEN.

This will ensure meeting requests, commitments and deadlines will be much easier to manage. 

Watch out for distractions

Although the Cloud is a great help for SMEs its growth has coincided with today’s many distractions, which are part of what has been termed “Triple Overload”.

Triple Overload is a combination of: data overload (too much information, so it takes ages to find something), communication overload (vast amounts of emails, video calls, Chat, etc) and cognitive overload (lots of interruptions and switching tasks, leading to exhaustion).

To avoid distractions think about when you’re at your best, and protect your best-attention-time so you can do your best work. Reduce and remove distractions by turning off notifications on your phone, closing your email down for an afternoon and processing emails in batches.

Ultimately, it’s time for SMEs to embrace the web and use the Cloud to help them grow successfully and to allow for the ability to compete with large corporates across the world.

Beat Bühlmann, General Manager for EMEA, Evernote (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy

Beat Bühlmann is Evernote’s General Manager for EMEA. He is an internationally recognised voice, and published author, on topics including building virtual teams, digital transformation and online marketing.