In reality, it’s helping many SMEs to compete with larger organisations, often punching far above normal weight. “How?” I hear you ask. Actually there’s a whole host of ways, but essentially it’s all about enablement.
Flexi-agilityFor a start, the flexibility that the cloud offers is perfect for young businesses where capital expenditure budgets are often tight, giving sophisticated productivity tools that are, crucially, scalable. Also, relying on the cloud helps avoid the burden associated with maintaining a cumbersome IT infrastructure while at the same time being able to increase or reduce the amount of services needed almost instantly. For a small business whose trajectory is characterised by sudden, sharp growth spurts, often followed by equally sharp contractions, this flexibility doesn’t just reduce waste, it can save jobs. Liberis is a fast-growing flexible finance business launched at the start of 2014. Cloud technology underpins its operations and processes. According to Tim Kirk, operations director of Liberis: “We want to grow our business five-fold over the next couple of years. Cloud technology is completely extendable, so no matter how big we grow or what we do, we know it will support us. That in itself is priceless.”
FunctionalityAlongside this agility, small businesses using the cloud actually have access to the same technology – with the same level of functionality – that large corporations do. This access truly levels the playing field, allowing them to compete effectively with much larger organisations.
InnovationThat combination of functionality and flexibility is also important because it leads to innovation. In many ways, it’s easier for SMBs to experiment as they are less burdened with ingrained processes and organisational layers. This already makes small firms more nimble than larger cousins. And coupled with the agility provided by the cloud, firms can truly out manoeuvre large organisations in terms of innovation. Looking at Liberis again, the company has already revolutionised the way small businesses access funding by providing cash advances linked to revenue generation, and now it is revolutionising the customer journey. To increase convenience for its customers, Liberis wants to offer a fully automated online decision-making and funding platform. Cloud is making it easier for the Liberis Labs team to bring together the online journey, as they can pull and push data in and out as needed.
Cloudy by birthTaking a step back, these days many startups have actually been born in the cloud. In an age where established organisations are turning to the cloud to digitise and transform the customer experience, many newer companies are already there – they’ve never had to undertake that transformation journey. And this gives SMEs another huge advantage: they can concentrate on offering innovative, digital services when competitors are still grappling with underlying processes. This is one reason why companies like Uber have been able to disrupt the market so successfully and cause so much disconcertion among established market leaders, like black cabs.
Customer-centric by natureThe combination of increased agility, better functionality and digitisation that cloud offers SMBs ultimately enables a better customer experience. And it’s never been more important to offer personalised engagement as customer expectations are only continuing to go up. UK recycling champion First Mile is one such example of an SME getting it right. The company already tracks every email sent to every customer along with its status, and uses this information to increase customer retention. A change in personnel at a customer can easily lead to a loss of business but, by tracking emails, any bounce-backs or unsubscribe emails are automatically flagged and First Mile is able to call the customer immediately to understand what is happening and immediately offer assistance. The company is further improving the customer experience by building a public knowledge base using Desk.com for customers and the public to easily access information about its services and recycling. By harnessing the power of the cloud, SMEs have an opportunity to revolutionise interaction with customers, out-compete bigger rivals, and build towards an intelligent, customer focused growth strategy. Sanj Bhayro is SVP of commercial sales for Salesforce.
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