Small businesses must unlock their full potential through mobility

Flexibility helps to build confidence

Small businesses yet to unlock their full potential through mobility

In 2014 we live in a world which is constantly connected. The advent of cloud technology has meant we can now do business on the move, at any time, from any location.

And the only way is up. IDC predict the sales of tablets will grow by 18% in 2014, with smartphones growing by 12%. Furthermore, the estimated cloud spending including technology and services will surge by 25% in the next 12 months to an eye watering $100 billion.

Mobile technology trends, driven by the consumer, are fundamentally influencing and evolving the way in which we do business. In short, our culture of collaboration has transcended into the business world and made the case for mobile working.

Britain is a nation of digital nomads – half of all people now work out of the office at least once a week, with more than one in four of us working out of the office every day. Indeed, businesses could add up to £1.4 billion to the UK economy each year by taking a more strategic approach to flexible working.

Mobile working

A YouGov survey for Skype found that more than a third (36%) of British workers say they feel they would be just as productive working from home as they are in the office, while 23% think they would actually be able to get more done in their own home than they would surrounded by the distractions of the workplace.

An overwhelming majority (94%) told a study by CDW that they believe their mobile devices make them more efficient. 43% of firms have shown a desire to improve customer service delivery with instant data (CDW) and 33% to accelerate their sales cycle (Accenture).

Productivity benefits gained by unchaining employees from their desks is worth potentially £4,200 for every staff member as a result of reduced printing costs and allowing businesses to make more efficient use of space.

However, a large number of SMBs are still lagging behind are yet to realise the full range of benefits that flexible working and BYOD can bring to their business. For those, it's time to cross the whitewash and fully embrace the potential mobile has to offer.

Here are some top benefits and considerations from improved mobile working:-

  • Saving cost/improving efficiency: Mobile gives access to information and functionality on the go. Whether in a hotel, an airport or commuting to work, mobile solutions offer significant cost gains by improving efficiency. For example, with a mobile workforce, managers are able to approve workflows on the go – something that would not be possible without mobile ERP and would have to be left until the individual is back in the office and sitting at their desk.
  • Better business intelligence: Business intelligence gives sales and marketing teams a competitive advantage when they're on the go. Mobile software can make you aware of emerging developments, help streamline operations and deliver superior supply chain visibility. The ability to answer 'what if' questions with a click of a button is also a desirable trait for staff au fait with the challenges of running a business on the go.
  • Improving performance: Not only do employees gain access to vital information wherever they are, but they are also able to update and change data as and when it is collected. Mobile ERP software for example makes it easy for workers to input information accurately when they gather it in the field, rather than having to re-key the data into back end systems, which increases the likelihood of mishaps and mistakes.
  • Seamless Implementation: Most, if not all, professionals are carrying one or multiple mobile devices with them today, and there will be no respite in the growth of portable devices in the workplace. Transferring capability onto these mobile devices will be seamless and effective because the infrastructure is already in place.
  • The case for mobility is undisputed and thanks to proliferation of mobile devices and sophisticated software solutions accessible on any device, people have the freedom to choose where they run their business.

As more superfast broadband branches out into the far reaches of the country, and 4G mobile networks are rolled out into more towns and cities, mobile business is not the future, it's the present.

And with 1.3 billion people worldwide expected to be working remotely through mobile technology by 2015 – equating to just over 37 per cent of the workforce – firms can drive future success through unlocking the power of mobility.

Creating a mobile strategy

The solutions and infrastructure are there to take advantage of. But in order to gain maximum benefit from the shift in working patterns, businesses need to develop a strategy for mobile technology.

Such a strategy should include the technology and different views of data needed to support mobile workers; the likely cost of mobile working; and a mobile working policy including data security guidelines that employees must adhere to.

Firms need to plan carefully and seeking advice from their software vendor is a good place to start. As firms stride forward into the digital frontier, mobile offers an ocean of opportunity that is there to be seized

  • Steve Attwell is the Managing Director of Sage UK and Ireland's Small and Medium Business Division.