Adaptability should prompt a digital healthcheck for SMBs

man in office on a phone call - small businesses and digital technology
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Business adaptability has never been more important than right now. The pandemic has been a watershed moment with 79% of British SMEs - which make up over 99% of the business population - having to adapt since the start of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Sky Connect.

The root of much of this change has of course been the rapid digitalization experienced during the pandemic. Many small businesses branched into ecommerce for the very first time, while others had to accelerate their digital initiatives to keep pace with changing buyer behavior. And this more aggressive move to transact online required a review of cybersecurity policies to protect the growing number of transactions happening at any given time.

About the author

Alexandra Sewell is Director of Product & Portfolio Management at Sky Connect.

But the strong push into e-commerce is not the only significant shift that has occurred since the pandemic. The rise of remote work has led employees to demand more from their employers to improve work/life balance and work from home capabilities. As people balance hybrid working, owners and decision makers are navigating how to transition into a work environment that keeps their employees connected through unified communications such as Cloud Voice, voice/video conferencing, messaging, presence and instant messaging.

And these shifts are only going to accelerate post-pandemic. There has been an irreversible shift in the technology required to keep up with the transformation. This period of adaptation and post-covid recovery provides a valuable and unique opportunity for small businesses - who have worked so tirelessly during the pandemic - to step back and re-evaluate the technology and broadband they are using to power their recovery, and the partners they rely upon to provide reliable digital solutions.

And this technology should not just support them for today, but also for future growth. As small businesses evaluate their tech infrastructure and broadband needs, they should ask themselves the following questions:

Are there repeatable, manual business processes that could be better managed through cloud applications?

We are in a transitional period where some organizations have retained traditional paper-based legacy systems, while others have moved critical workloads to the cloud, improving digital efficiency, security, and the ability to flex to changing business needs. In this transitional phase, small businesses may think it’s just for larger firms with bigger budgets. But small businesses are quickly moving to adopt cloud solutions to replace manual business processes and gain access to software and services that give them expanded capabilities. During this process, it’s just as important to update broadband and underlying technology to support the new solutions and enable a seamless transition.

What percent of my business has shifted online and do I have reliable bandwidth to capitalize on my new digital presence?

Ultimately, being able to digitalize can help a business reach a larger pool of potential customers. As the world made the shift to online during the pandemic, many customers who may never have used online services or sites before became digital first champions and have now joined the growing number of internet users looking for businesses to suit their needs. Excellent broadband can enable businesses to center their businesses online, and reach these online customers successfully through ecommerce, advertising and marketing efforts. This could be make or break for the small businesses who are recovering post-pandemic and need to increase revenue and win more loyal customers.

Does my current technology stack support employee needs and customer expectations? If not, where do I need to invest?

Reliable technology and broadband plays a key role in employee productivity and customer experience. On a basic level, having slow broadband and outdated technology can cause frustration as it makes it more difficult to deliver on important tasks. At its worst, unreliable technology and broadband can cause business disruption including the inability to transact and engage with employees and customers. As companies employ more staff and upgrade their technology, the broadband will have to cope with more devices, which has the potential to slow down the pace of business if investments aren’t made to maintain the right level of bandwidth.

Customers also increasingly expect access to a fast and reliable internet connection when they visit a business, especially as hybrid working becomes more popular and individuals can set up office anywhere. Companies who aren’t able to provide adequate connectivity will automatically be missing out on potential customers who require constant internet access.

Areas to invest in alongside reliable broadband include business-grade 4G backup to ensure the business can seamlessly stay up and running under any unforeseen broadband disruption, and digital phone lines which allow business owners to control calls without being tethered to their bricks-and-mortar location.

How much of my annual budget is dedicated to evolving the technology in my business and should this increase to reflect changes in digital advancement?

Time is money. And for every moment that unreliable technology or poor broadband connection delays an essential task for an employee or puts off a customer, a business will lose revenue. As a result, it should be a business priority to assign enough budget to invest in upgraded technology and have access to truly reliable broadband that can support digital changes. Especially as small businesses recover from the pandemic, and are looking to make up for a dip in revenue during lockdowns, technology that can evolve with the business and open the door to innovation should be considered an integral part of any business growth plan, and budgets will need to change to reflect this.

As we move into a post-pandemic world, where the status quo for small businesses has permanently changed, it has never been more important for businesses to be able to keep up with the rapid changes and stand out against competitors. Sky Connect found that 75% of UK small businesses are currently feeling optimistic about the future: at a time when it’s looking up for SMEs, no business should be held back from its appetite for innovation by technology that is unable to support its ambitions for a strong recovery.

Alexandra Sewell is Director of Product & Portfolio Management at Sky Connect.