Interviews

Levelling the playing field: Leveraging people power and technology to compete with larger firms

8 min read

12 June 2015

Jonathan Kini, head of SME business at Vodafone UK, shares five top tips on how companies can leverage employees in combination with technology to help strengthen business performance and stay ahead of the competition.

As technology evolves, businesses both big and small are increasingly competing on a level playing field. Technology innovations like ultrafast mobile connectivity, cloud computing and virtual geographic telephone numbers have enabled small businesses to to appear big, without copious amounts of investment or ongoing costs.

By taking a focussed approach to investment, based on business priorities, and maximising the utility of key technologies like mobility, SMEs have an opportunity to compete effectively in the UK and abroad. 

Here are five ways SMEs can make it happen:

1. Help your employees be a “jack of all trades” 

SMEs have small teams and tight resources, meaning that employees often have to be a jack of all trades. For example, it is not uncommon to find the same person looking after both marketing and HR. It is therefore important that information is free-flowing across the organisation and easy to access.

To ensure employees consistently have the tools they need to perform any variety of roles, business owners should develop and foster an “information sharing” culture from the top-down. This, in turn, should be supported by an IT infrastructure that enables employees to easily download, share and access information safely and securely from wherever they are and by any means – be it a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Although it may sound complicated, it can be easily and cost effectively achieved. For instance, by adopting a paperless culture and digitising information as well as equipping staff with mobile devices and business applications, employees can work from anywhere and remain productive whilst travelling to see customers. To successfully implement this new way of working, it is important that SMEs have a resilient fixed and mobile network with sufficient capacity to handle business data as well as support unified communications, access to cloud storage and mobile device management solutions – helping IT managers easily manage privacy and security across devices. 

2. Get more “bang for your buck”

SMEs may not have the cash flow that larger competitors have access to, but this should not hold employers back from growing their business, making better use of technology and benefitting from mobile working. Employees can work from anywhere using mobile devices, minimising the need for office space and maximising time spent working from wherever suits them and the job they do best. In addition, the scope of services delivered through the cloud have expanded and become more affordable. This enables SMEs to purchase software applications and services on a cost-per-use basis versus one lump sum.

Before initiating the procurement process, however, an SME should take the time to thoroughly research what kind of technology is most likely to help it meet its business goals. In doing this, businesses can ensure that any upfront investment is outweighed by the long term benefits. This will also help lower overheads, focus business priorities, enable more productive workforces and result in better customer services and engagement. For example, by investing in smartphones, laptops or tablets , employees can work flexibly as well as from anywhere – be it at home, a café or on the road. This ultimately saves the company money by eliminating the need for employees to travel to and from the office every day, whilst reducing property costs, desk space, etc.

Read more about flexible working:

3. Ensure security is on the wider agenda 

As a business become increasingly mobile and digitised, it faces new security challenges. Although managing the security and privacy of company information can seem daunting, especially when there may not be a dedicated IT team, it should not hold businesses back from embracing mobility. 

employers can cost efficiently and effectively safeguard their businesses from potential cyber attacks and data loss by implementing a cloud-based device management software that enables an IT manager to easily manage security settings across employees’ devices, including the types of information that can be downloaded, accessed and shared, as well as installing regular updates. To reinforce security, SMEs should also implement policies and procedures that ensure employees are aware of potential security threats to data on their mobile devices and enforce a level of accountability.

Through implementing security technology and policies and educating employees on their obligations, employers can put themselves in a strong position to prevent and deal with any potential security threats. 

4. Empower employees with tech knowledge 

In order to stay ahead of the competition, it is important that employers do what they can to ensure their staff are as highly trained and skilled as possible by keeping employees up-to-date with the latest innovations. One of the great things about having a smaller team is the close-knit culture that comes with it and the ability to create an environment that encourages employees to share their knowledge and skills. One way to do this is holding team workshops on emerging technologies during the lunch hour. 

No matter which way a SME decides to educate its staff, it is important that businesses invest in employees so they feel confident in their current job role and feel prepared for the future as it increasingly becomes more digital

5. Future proof your SME 

The rapid pace of today’s digital revolution and the speed at which SMEs need to change to stay ahead of the competition leaves employers facing one vital question: how can they be ready for the challenges and opportunities of not only today’s business landscape, but also the future?

By adopting technologies that enable SMEs to quickly adapt to the changing environment and deliver products and services in the way customers expect, businesses can confidently compete against their larger counterparts. SMEs are inherently nimble so it makes sense to complement this strength with technology that can evolve with the business versus being held back by old, inflexible IT systems.

Therefore when SMEs decide to adopt new technologies, it is important to consider technology that can easily be scaled up and down based on business needs and without significantly impacting finance or manpower. Ultimately, it is important that SMEs do not just think about the here and now, but seek to find the technology and the people that help drive continued success for today and tomorrow.

Jonathan Kini is head of SME business at Vodafone UK.

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