Rising agility among SMEs: A new dawn for developers

A man working through an image of collaboration options.
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As COVID-19 dominates the world of work for its second year, businesses are still adjusting, especially to cater for working from home. Continued uncertainty has introduced a new level of contingency to planning, and forecasting is taken with a pinch of salt. What is certain, however, is that agility, enabled at least in part by digital solutions, has become integral to not only success, but also survival.

About the author

Alex Fawcett, senior director, ecosystem, at Sage.

Developers have a crucial role to play in these difficult times. Now more than ever, companies require hybrid working, collaboration, accounting, compliance, and IT management tools that work together to provide integrated solutions to specific needs and can readily scale in line with changes in circumstance. Here, developers have an opportunity to showcase their innovator’s mindset and in-depth customer understanding.

A ‘new normal’ brings new opportunities

As ever, it’s crucial to understand what applications current and prospective customers are using – as well as where they could be headed. The pandemic has forced many businesses into an unfamiliar digital landscape. Processes that used to be done by hand now need to be completed digitally. Point of sale and payments processing are seeing heavy investment, but so are cashflow management solutions as businesses contend with deferred and late payments.

One of the areas that has seen the greatest upswing in adoption in the past year is business collaboration tools. Compelled to adopt hybrid and remote working practices, organizations turned to platforms like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams in unprecedented numbers. Last year Zoom usage grew 1,788%, while Microsoft teams boomed to 145 million users. These platforms represent fertile ground for developers able to integrate with them. But it’s important to understand what relationships, partnerships and technical capabilities are needed first.

It’s crucial for developers to know the platform they are plugging into. But they should also pay attention to what other opportunities are out there. Many platform and service providers allow easy integration through the use of open APIs. The process for developing for their platforms is streamlined by tools and support, often showcased in a marketplace that can provide a valuable route to market. This can make them an ideal jumping-off point for developers seeking to reach a large number of customers rapidly.

Thinking outside the box

A developer has to understand their customers and partners – their needs, priorities and concerns. However, that won’t be enough to be competitive. More than anything, customers are seeking stability through applications that can integrate with each other to solve their immediate problems and generate value fast. No one is investing in tech for tech’s sake. A developer shouldn’t just follow the herd, they should strike out into new pastures others may have overlooked. Innovation is greatly rewarded – the most innovative software developers grow almost twice as fast as their competitors.

It’s worth considering opportunities that are only emergent but likely to become highly lucrative in the years to come. The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t a new concept, but many small and medium-sized enterprises are only now getting to grips with its nature and potential applications. The IoT is a world of sensors and software, leaving many gaps for quality-of-life and efficiency improvements that an innovative developer can fill in. Contactless commerce is also coming into its own. The most important thing to consider is how easily a developer’s solution can integrate with these other digital technologies. How does the solution enhance the customer’s digital offering or optimize its processes?

At the same time, a new application doesn’t have to be a big-ticket item. Customers are usually just seeking a solution for a particular problem or a single process that’s costing them time and money. Old problems haven’t gone away and – in the transition to a digital-first environment – the only thing that has changed is the technology stack. Reporting is still a bugbear for many companies, so developers shouldn’t be afraid to dust off ‘old’ solutions and update them for a new problem or audience. A refreshed solution that can streamline the reporting process by quickly gathering all the data required by the customer, could be a valuable prospect.

A golden opportunity

Developers play an invaluable role in today’s thriving digital ecosystem. Businesses face an uncertain future with tools and technologies they’re still trying to understand. They need a developer that can think like a partner, an innovator. Yet where there’s demand there will be fierce competition. To stand out and remain relevant, a developer has to think differently, to explore beyond their comfort zone and truly futureproof their solutions. Understand the priorities, platforms and people who make up your current and prospective customers – that’s how developers earn their place as the enablers of digital transformation.

Senior Director, Ecosystem, at Sage.