For many small business, especially those not into technology, IT is usually among the least of their worries. Putting up infrastructure always seems costly with hardware and software licenses to worry about, not to mention hiring knowledgeable people and training staff. However, what’s often overlooked are the potential upsides from integrating technology as part of the business strategy and should have some room in the budget.
In today’s business environment, big data and automation are two of the key aspects of technology that can help build up and bolster businesses. Small business owners may be wondering if this applies to them, and it isn’t surprising. Big data and automation used to be toys for the big boys, as these used to take massive investments to implement. Thanks to ‘as-a-service’ and ‘single-stack’ solutions, though, these tools are now more accessible even to upstarts and SMEs.
Big data lets you see patterns unique to your business
Big data is essentially the use of large and complex data sets to reveal patterns that can reveal possible correlations and causations. In business, these patterns are usually used as bases for decisions and strategies.
Going for purely gut and instincts may not cut it anymore. Taking a cue from competitors is usually a start but many small businesses risk becoming a me-too company by simply following whatever move competitors make. Successful companies are those that dominate a competitive playing field or those that find the niche in which they are strong. Asian markets do have their nuances that trying to apply models and frameworks used in the US and Europe could prove to be ineffective.
With big data, reports can give insights
to owners that are unique to their businesses. Perhaps data could reveal areas in which they could improve efficiency or cut costs. Data could also reveal possible market segments to which they could target. Medium-sized enterprise and maker of health products DeRoyal implemented cloud-based business intelligence
and it paid off for them. Looking at data on sales activities, they were able to identify productive teams and replicate what worked in others.
Expensive infrastructure and costly software aren’t barriers to implementing business intelligence anymore. Cloud services and alternative business intelligence software are all available at reduced investment requirements. Cloud services, in particular, take away the need for putting up dedicated infrastructure to handle computing and data crunching needs.
Automation increases productivity
Business can also benefit from leveraging technology to speed up otherwise manual intensive and repetitive tasks. Just search any area of business and there would be results for companies that offer cloud-based automation services.
For retailers, there are sales force automation services available that can optimize the sales lifecycle. For those working in development, project management and task tracking apps and sites help teams collaborate. Even brick-and-mortar stores can take advantage of cloud-based POS systems that can be run on tablets and phones. Timekeeping and payroll have also gone the cloud-based route as well.
All of these solutions can boost productivity. For employees, using such tools can help them trim minutes or even hours just to perform a task. Instant notifications and other collaboration features also take away the need of handing over work to the next person in charge. Business owners can monitor all of these activities and get notifications even while working remotely, so that if something demands attention, one can always rely on real-time information to make the call.
For example, sales people, especially those engaged in business-to-business (B2B) sales are mostly out in the field. But to make sure they are working, they’re required to submit daily reports on client visits and calls. Doing a daily report may take them 30 minutes to an hour to do in a workday. By using apps and cloud-based platforms that automatically log their activities as they are performed, they could then refocus the time visiting additional clients instead of working on reports.
Just take the difference between the time to do something manually and the time spent aided by automation, multiply that difference by the cost per hour of doing the job and you could project the savings you can have by automating.
IT has revolutionized not only the way we do business but the way we see the world. It’s high time even small businesses factor in technologies like business intelligence and automation as part of the growth strategy. Increased productivity and guided business decisions can often make the difference between you and your competitor.