As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) we see first hand the trends and changing landscape of how SMB's engage in technology. In the wake of the pandemic, 'out of the box' thinking is at an all time high. This creative thought has driven SMB's to place increased priority to finding innovative ways to use technology.
Businesses looking to seize new opportunities are dusting off previously shelved ideas and ambitions. Commonly however many SMB's don't know how to get started. In addition, some are unaware of their options and what's possible.
So with that in mind, we thought we would share some insight and ideas. These are the most common IT improvements we're seeing SMB's focus on in 2021.
1. Warehousing / Dispatch Solutions
Almost every business with dispatching has it digitised in some way. These systems are almost always antiquated and inefficient when you speak to those using them. Spreadsheets, manual entry and inaccurate reporting hold businesses back. Commonly these systems create increased issues with:
- Accurate reporting of stock levels
- Errors and inconsistencies
- Time required to process orders
- Visibility of the status of orders.
These all have negative impact to profitability and customer experience. Often the solution is not difficult or expensive. This simply requires good advice and someone to deliver the result. Many businesses are making IT improvements to their warehousing in 2021.
2. Staff Enablement
Whilst collaboration software has been all the rage lately, staff enablement is actually a much broader topic. Fundamentally this is about ensuring staff members have the right tools for the job.
Too long IT standardisation has forced users to operate in a 'one size fits all' environment. It is possible for someone to do their job on any standard device. It is also true however that the right device can save individuals 2-3 hours a week in productivity.
The reality is that even a 20 user business can gain the equivalent of a full time resource based on the above metric alone. It's this revelation that is leading SMB's to seek deeper understanding in how technology can be used more effectively. There are modern solutions that enable both flexibility & standardisation.
3. Customer Experience Improvements
Almost every business owner has a dream of a simple, effective customer portal to improve their client engagement. Unsurprisingly some businesses are investing in exactly that. Less considered however is the variety of small changes that can be made to improve customers experience.
- The adoption of client facing calendars & booking systems to make booking time with consultants and account managers easier.
- Easier access of important data to allow your staff to keep clients better informed.
- Automation of common tasks to speed up delivery of products and services, paving the way for more impactful brand promises.
- The use of modern task tracking tools that not only make you more productive and reduce mistakes, but provide clients with clear visuals of progress.
Businesses with a keen focus on the customer journey are making great progress in these areas. Most importantly their willingness to try new ideas is creating separation from their competition.
4. Workflow Optimisation
The time and effort required to accept, process and deliver products and services is the main driver to profitability. We've seen situations where improved systems and workflows can halve the time it takes to complete common tasks. Unsurprisingly this increases business capacity and the quality of service to customers.
Solutions in this space have never been more accessible to small business. It is not uncommon for investment in this area to pay for itself within 6 months. It's this level of ROI combined with businesses experiencing higher than usual sales that is driving change in every industry.
Whilst this is an opportunity for all businesses, it is undoubtedly a risk to those that don't evolve and adapt. Businesses with relatively high overheads will struggle to compete in the future with their more efficient counterparts.
5. Analytics, BI and Decision Empowering
The age of building reports is coming to an end. Traditionally businesses spend a lot of time building reports to aid decision making. Commonly the time to make these reports often leaves the information somewhat outdated by the time it's read. This is creating headaches for leaders who increasingly need access to real time data.
As competition grows, gains are being made in agility and adaptiveness. This requires accurate, up to date information that can be acted on with decisiveness. Solutions in this space are increasingly more affordable and accessible to SMB. As a result, many SMB's are installing dashboard screens and upgrading reports.
Making Improvements Possible
Making improvements like those above requires expertise, commitment and most importantly someone to drive change. As a result, many SMB's struggle to get off the ground as they lack the time, knowledge and focus required to push forward.
This conflict is leading many to re-evaluate the relationship with their IT provider. In the past companies looked for friendly and reliable. In addition businesses are now looking for partners who can expand their capabilities; partners who can drive positive change.
Creating positive change and driving a business forward with technology demands a different approach. Reactive support services can no longer be the main event. Above all a proactive service model with data driven strategy is crucial. In other words, businesses need to engage in a more mature service model in order to get better results.
This is the space we work in. We would be happy to share our approach to IT services and how we could move your business forward. Please get in touch and we can set up a time to chat!