by Catherine Mitchell, VP of Product Development & Management at Cox Business
Many small businesses’ efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology were on a slow trickle until the pandemic hit in first quarter 2020. However, COVID-19 opened the floodgates for companies adopting technological solutions that would help them survive tough times and set them up for greater success now and in the future.
In fact, overall digital transformation (DX) investments are expected to reach $7.8 trillion between 2020 and 2024. Digital transformation refers to adopting digital technology to move business processed from non-digital to digital – for example, moving data from an on-site server to the cloud or releasing an app for consumers to buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS).
And while small businesses might not have the resources for a complete digital transformation, any digital technology investment helps them gain a leg up on the competition, enables them to increase connectivity and accessibility with their customers, and better enables employees to get their jobs done.
A Deloitte study found 43% of U.S. small business owners and managers reported digital tools improved employee satisfaction in the workplace, enabled them to earn twice as much revenue per worker and experienced nearly quadruple revenue from the previous year.
Following are other ways technology helps savvy small businesses flourish in an increasingly digitally driven world.
Build Resilience with Reliable Infrastructure
We’ve all been in situations when our phone calls suddenly drop or presentations undergo hiccups because of unreliable infrastructure. Today’s employees must multitask to please your customers and get their work done. As such, they require reliable infrastructure: think fast internet service and seamless wireless connections, regardless of how many people work on site simultaneously.
Many small businesses have adopted a hybrid working environment, so it’s crucial to have things like consistent internet speed for video conferencing, built-in network redundancy to ensure backup connectivity, accessible-from-anywhere cloud storage and regular, automatic backups to data security.
Defend Against Cyber-attacks
Speaking of security, it has been said there are two types of organizations: those that have suffered a data breach and those that will.
In May 2020, TechRepublic reported that 13% of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) had experienced a cyberattack since the pandemic began – which, at the time of reporting, had only been about two months. Further, a BullGuard survey of SMB owners found 50% of respondents said it took 24 hours or longer to recover from a breach or cyberattack, 25% said they spent $10,000 or more to resolve an attack, and 25% reported losing business as a result.
Internet security solutions are a must, particularly since the shift to remote opens up more vulnerabilities than ever. Consider installing, using and regularly updating antivirus and antispyware software on all devices and training employees in cyber-security principles for increased safety.
Connect to Cloud for Mobility, Flexibility
Cloud computing, which continues increasing in popularity, provides employees with the flexibility to work anywhere – a huge benefit to small businesses, especially since the work-from home and hybrid work environments are gaining ground. Upwork’s “Future of Workforce Pulse Report” survey found one in four Americans work remotely this year and anticipates 36.2 million U.S. employees will work remotely by 2025 – an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
Among the benefits for small businesses, the cloud provides the ability to scale up or down affordably as business needs change, eliminates costly in-house IT infrastructure and the need for in-house IT staff and usually comes with built-in security and compliance. Plus, a September 2020 QuickBooks survey reports that 23% of small business starting in the next 12 months will have fully remote workforces – which the cloud enables.
Promote Growth, Even During Tough Times
Many small businesses scrambling to keep their doors open during the pandemic found technology was necessary to build a more robust online presence, enabling growth. Restaurants, for instance, kept orders coming and going by offering curbside pickup and delivery made available through apps, while retailers found they could sell their goods online.
More than one-quarter (28%) of small business owners responding to the aforementioned QuickBooks survey report they are selling more products and services online than before the pandemic, and 86% developed new products and services as a direct result of COVID-19. Plus, technology gave small businesses the ability to keep virtually connected with customers, suppliers and employees when face-to-face meetings and other interactions weren’t possible.
Take The Tech Plunge
Customers, employees – Americans, in general – rely on technology to do everything these days with Amazon-like speed. Grocery shopping. Banking. Dining. Meetings. They’re digitally savvy and expect the companies they do business with to be digitally savvy in turn.
Small businesses taking the technology plunge, whether through fast, efficient internet, cybersecurity software, cloud storage, or any number or digital solutions, set themselves up for greater likelihood to success than those who forego modernization.
In short, this year it’s time to get onboard the great growling engine of change. And if the prospect of transformation daunts you, find an infrastructure partner that can help you enjoy the ride. After all, improving communication, efficiency, employee engagement, job satisfaction, customer experience, and so much more with technology is just about as good as gold.
Source: Smart Hustle
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