A small business needs many things to succeed: a good product or service, a responsible approach to finance, effective marketing and capable management.
Also crucial, however, is the right technology supported by the right people. Research by data cloud provider Dun & Bradstreet supports this, finding over half of SME business leaders believe the best use of technology is a fundamental part of their future success.
This is becoming increasingly true as technology developments (e.g., Internet of Things, blockchain and artificial intelligence) and increased connectivity and digitalisation take place at pace.
The right technology can help SMEs increase efficiency, improve security, generate long-term cost savings and, potentially, increase revenue. Technology can also enable innovation. In other words, technology can give SMEs a significant advantage over their competitors.
However, it can be a challenge to identify the right technology for your business, especially given the speed at which technology changes. Barriers blocking tech adoption include cost, which impacts small businesses more than larger organisations due to them having fewer financial resources. Other barriers include concerns about the reliability of new technology and, sometimes, uncertainty about the technology’s benefits to the business.
These issues stem largely from a lack of expertise to guide SMEs in the right direction when selecting technologies.
Dun & Bradstreet found that a third of SMEs believe their staff do not possess the digital skills needed to fully realise the opportunities provided by new technology.
SMEs know all about the challenges surrounding talent, with 81 per cent struggling to find new recruits with the right type and level of skills, according to research commissioned by coworking company The Brew by rent24.
The same research found 36 per cent of respondents who struggle to find skilled staff believe a major cause is a lack of learning or progression opportunities, while 30 per cent blame work culture such as an inadequate social scene or poor work-life balance.
But with technology becoming increasingly important for SMEs, it’s crucial to recruit and retain staff who can get the most from that technology.
Small businesses must therefore consider the ways in which they recruit people. And they need to train their existing workforce to take advantage of their current technologies and to prepare for future innovations.
This includes things like making sure recruitment processes don't discriminate against older workers who may have valuable experience with previous technology implementations. Other steps include getting the pay and benefits balance right, particularly as SMEs are unlikely to be able to compete with larger companies on a strict pound-to-pound basis.
Having the right staff will help SMEs make informed choices about their options and help them fully realise the potential of their technology once it has been acquired and implemented.
Many SMEs are also taking steps to improve matters by upskilling existing employees and acquiring technology expertise and consultation from third parties, including technology vendors themselves. Some cybersecurity providers, for example, offer the services of their own teams (at a cost) to boost the expertise of in-house security teams.
By taking a people-based approach to technology, SMEs can minimise the risk of making bad technology decisions and investments and, instead, maximise the opportunities technology can bring.