If you’re like most SMB decision-makers, you already know that business success nowadays relies largely on using technology solutions to meet shifting customer, market, and competitive requirements.
Recent research bears this out, showing that 82% of SMBs acknowledge that using new technology effectively is key to business growth, while a similar percentage agree that technology is reshaping their businesses and industries.
However, even though this is well understood, many businesses still find themselves unprepared or underprepared to act. Research also revealed that just 19% of SMBs believe they have a well-defined digital business strategy, and just 24% are working on initiatives to prepare their businesses for a digital future.
The disjointed past
Using technology to work smarter, not harder, is critical to streamline operations, improve productivity, attract new customers, and stay ahead of changing trends.
However, it can be difficult to get the value your business needs from technology. Many SMBs lack the time, expertise, and money they need to figure out what solutions they need and to chart a path to implementing them.
Even more commonly, SMBs struggle with integrating new technologies with existing systems and processes, not surprising when you consider that 80% of SMBs still rely on manual data entry, batch file uploads, and/or bespoke code to meet their integration needs.
If your business is using disjointed solutions that don’t work together, it’s likely that your people are spending too much time manually integrating and reconciling information, leaving less time to focus on the things that really move your business forward.
Again, most SMBs recognize the need to solve the integration problem already. According to recent statistics 43% of SMBs are actively investing to integrate their business applications, and a further 33% plan to do so soon. But integrating disconnected solutions “after the fact” is often difficult and expensive and is, often, unlikely to provide adequate agility in the future. In fact, the reverse is true, usually the process of integrating 2 previously disconnected applications of leaves you with even less capability to integrate further.
A modern approach
This reality is driving more SMBs to consider solutions designed from the ground up to integrate, allowing them to streamline workflows, and get the sort of real-time insights required to respond quickly to customer, supply chain, and operational trends.
Modern extensible platforms, whether they be application suites or ERP systems, allow a business to automate processes across core areas such as financials, order fulfilment, payments, inventory, supply chain, human resources, marketing, sales, service, and more.
Because the applications within the suite or platform are integrated with each other, business-critical information is updated in real-time across related business processes, reducing the need for redundant data entry and double handling, thus speeding up repetitive processes, and ensuring everyone has the same information to use for decision-making.
Although these platforms offer a lot of functionality and can potentially consist of myriad component parts, most allow for a phased approach. So, you can begin by automating key areas and then build with additional capabilities as you need them incrementally.
Why integration is the way forward
Here are a few ways that integrating your technology benefits your business
Efficient and streamlined business processes
Intelligent, integrating systems are designed to connect the dots between people and processes across different business functions. Information flows freely, in real-time to the people that need it to get their jobs done. This slashes the need for repetitive, manual data input and reconciliation tasks; decreases the odds of human error; and speeds up processes.
These systems also provide users with proactive alerts and notifications to help identify potentially risky situations. For example, they can detect when stocks need to be replenished, and automatically trigger reorders.
Improved business intelligence
No more duelling spreadsheets or “seat of the pants” decision-making. You enter data just once, and it is updated in real-time across different modules/applications. Users get consistent, accurate information, improving collaboration and speeding up decision-making.
Getting a more holistic view of information can do much for any business, such as helping to identify and remedy customer service problems before they spiral or determine the qualities that drive employee performance in a given role.
Flexibility for the future
An open, extensible platform approach empowers developers, and their partners, to easily add new functionality to their offerings.
This means that third-party partners and customer developers can take advantage of security, scalability, and other functionality built into the platform, and because the developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time, customers can reap the benefits of early access to the newest technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation and blockchain, as some current examples.
It is easy to become complacent. After all, change is hard.
But, as the rate of change in technology and business continually accelerates, the ability to detect, manage, and stay ahead of those changes is increasingly linked to business survival and growth.
The truth is the cost of sticking with outdated, disconnected business solutions may be one most SMBs cannot afford.
Modern integrate-able platforms can put your business on solid footing to work smarter so there is no better time to critically examine how well current your technology strategy and solutions serve your business today, and to assess whether they’ll be able to provide the agility your business needs to thrive in the future.
Want more advice?
I hope that you have found this article useful. If you would like more advice on IT for your business, or would like to find out more about how pro-active IT support and managed services can help you, get in touch…
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About the author…
Julian has over 20 years of experience as a technical salesperson for IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and likes nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chat about how to cure your IT headaches.
Supreme Systems is an information technology company established since 2008.
Leading IT Services provider and Cloud solutions for businesses in West Midlands.