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How SMEs are moving ahead of IT departments in the digital race

In a bid to win the digital race SMBs have ditched the IT guy, but see why a technology strategy for businesses is becoming more important than ever. 

In a bid to win the digital race SMBs have ditched the IT guy.

Small business has ditched the IT guy. But not for good, of course. And technology strategy within a business has never been more important. But when it comes to actually managing dedicated tech stacks and systems, SMEs are at a huge advantage. What cost tens of thousands of dollars several years ago can be replicated by cloud-based software very inexpensively, if not for free.

Self-sufficiency is the name of the game in IT these days. Businesses are more able to identify what tools they need for doing business, enabling them to more quickly respond to disruption on behalf of competitors.

Canon Australia Head of Customer Marketing Nitya Padman believes this gives SMEs an advantage, referencing research undertaken on behalf of the company.

“Trends in the study… point to differences between small to medium sized businesses and larger businesses.

“Small to medium sized businesses are heavily reliant on IT to help them stay agile, counter costs and improve productivity. Their needs are immediate and they’re more readily able to transform to create more efficient workflows and improve ways of interacting with customers.”

In short, smaller businesses are punching above their weight and moving ahead in the digital race.

“Larger organisations are heavily impacted by legacy systems. This is a major deterrent to progressing at a faster pace along the digital transformation journey.”

Here are some strategies for how to make that digital change happen faster within your own business, and how to use technology to create efficient workflows and become more self-sufficient:

Use digital collaboration tools

Ensure your employees are able to collaborate effectively.

Social tools like Yammer and IM software help, and contrary to what you might think, according to McKinsey, “By using social technologies, companies can raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25%”.

That also means digitising everything

Most workers will lose any paper they print out. It’s a waste. Businesses should look at digitising their document management as part of their overall transformation.

Think of it like having a digital filing cabinet, somewhere you can easily locate the right information in a document management system and retrieve it in seconds.

A solution like Canon, for example, does just this. Paper-based workflows requiring processing and approval by multiple staff can be easily transformed into streamlined digital ones. Edits and approvals can be made on the go via a mobile device so you no longer need to pass paper documents around the office.
 Better yet, you can get rid of the ugly filing cabinet in the corner.

Adopting real-time analytics

The power of information is growing, and businesses now have access to real-time information like never before. The benefits are clear – Gartner predicts that by 2017, 70% of the most profitable companies will be using real-time analytics and information.

As research from Stanford University shows, there is also reason to believe the use of analytics can lead to greater performance, especially in SMEs, due to “the assumption of more intuition-based decision making within SMEs”.

But there are challenges. Data is not gospel, and as the Stanford research shows, data scientists are scarce.

However, SMEs now have access to powerful solutions with relatively little cost, including cloud services such as Amazon, and machine learning tools such as IBM Watson.

Using this data and applying it to business solutions can help SMEs speed up their workflows.

Additionally, as Stanford points out, businesses should consider creating groups within the business to ensure experimentation is occurring with this information in order to extract value, “instead of limiting it to the isolated skills in the IT department on the business side”.

This article was originally published on Smart Company, and has been republished with permission.

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