Agile SMEs pose a real threat to larger businesses because they can adapt quickly to change. However, they are often held back by the complex spreadsheets and unimaginative accounting software they use to track financial and operational data.
But digital developments and cheaper, more user-friendly cloud solutions are enabling SMEs to create smarter business processes.
The need to change business management systems often stems from a combination of pain points, but one common denominator is growth
The need to change business management systems often stems from a combination of pain points, but one common denominator is growth. SMEs regularly outgrow their existing systems because they cannot be scaled in line with growth or support increasing numbers of users.
Vendors are now tailoring their end-to-end business management solutions to fit the growth needs of SMEs. In doing so, they are introducing more advanced capabilities focused on unlocking greater insights and minimising deployment costs.
As a result, cost-effective solutions that can take on additional users and scale up to handle larger volumes of data are not just an aspiration, but a possibility. To help turn that possibility into a reality for SMEs, The New Economy outlines five key features to consider when selecting an end-to-end solution.
1. The Internet of Things
The average cost of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors is falling year-on-year and is set to continue to drop. In the past, IoT technology was associated with larger enterprises, but SMEs are starting to reap the benefits too.
In the manufacturing sector, for example, the implementation of IoT sensors on equipment enables employees to monitor the conditions of assets, uptime and operational efficiency. These sensors generate data streams that can be analysed to point out when equipment is likely to malfunction and proactively arrange maintenance.
As a result, maintenance is only carried out when necessary, avoiding the cost of scheduled maintenance and downtime caused by equipment breakdown.
2. Cloud software
Cloud-hosted business management solutions accelerate deployment and reduce the burden of managing and adapting infrastructure. This allows SMEs to focus on day-to-day processes and customer service, while also minimising the risk of disruption to ongoing business operations.
Cloud-based solutions can be deployed in the space of just 10 days – this includes training, implementation and going live – but offers more than just a quick rollout. Extensions can be added to the core platform in minutes.
This is beneficial to SMEs if they require sales orders to be presented in a specific format or need to quickly introduce cross-sell functionality.
3. Business intelligence tools
The evolution of business management systems has taken away the need for time-consuming spreadsheet analysis to identify patterns and trends, causing the gap between large businesses and SMEs to narrow.
Business intelligence (BI) tools can be embedded into customer relationship management, sales and marketing systems and enable decisions to be made in real time.
Integrated BI and advanced data analytics deliver insights to business leaders, helping them make informed choices or quickly respond to changes in the business environment. Data-driven decisions made by SMEs are now on par with their larger competitors.
4. Support growth
As businesses grow, supporting infrastructure must scale accordingly or a breakdown in operations becomes a real risk. Scalability cannot be underestimated by SMEs, meaning subscription-based models are becoming a popular choice.
This eliminates the need to continually purchase, transfer or renew licences to guarantee the workforce has access to the necessary business software. It takes away the risk of overspending on licences and allows new users to be added and removed quickly and easily.
5. Work with your budget
A subscription-based business management solution delivered from the cloud presents a risk-free alternative to spreadsheets and old-fashioned financial systems. SMEs with stricter budgets are not limited in terms of reaching their potential, providing they are willing to embrace this technology.
Today’s business management solutions offer rich feature sets and high adaptability for minimal outlay, meaning SMEs can compete with corporate powerhouses. Actively connecting people, processes and systems allows important decision-makers to boost productivity and take a hands-on approach to business management.
To keep up with digital developments and maintain a competitive edge, businesses should steer clear of selecting multiple systems to address different business areas. The chosen end-to-end solution needs to meet multiple business needs, structuring processes and workflows.
The five factors detailed are key to choosing a business solution that maps on to your business rather than one your business has to fit into. If SMEs are to take advantage of disruptive technologies, compete and be successful, a comprehensive business management solution is essential.