20 Jul Solving Technology challenges in SMEs
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
Here’s why: In 2017, there were 5.7 million businesses in the UK, of which over 99% were Small or Medium Enterprises (SMEs) employing 1-249 staff; and, 5.5 million (96%) were micro-businesses (1-9 staff).
The health and growth of SMEs is therefore critical to the UK economy, and technology – when implemented in the right way – is critical to helping them achieve their goals and aspirations.
However, many SMEs lack the resources and skills needed to fund and implement ‘enterprise strength’ technology. As a consequence, many SMEs procure multiple vendor solutions that best fit the needs of their different departments (i.e. sales, marketing, customer services, accounting, human resources, and so forth). They then struggle to integrate the myriad of applications they have and consequently create burdensome administrative processes that add even more cost to their bottom line.
In summary, common issues are that their applications ;
- lack integration, which hence delivers sub-optimal ROI
- offer limited functionality, and hence no longer fit for purpose
- are difficult/costly to change;
- suffer poor adoption which, can have a profound impact on business performance
- produce unreliable reports and other management information
- are not sufficiently secure, and hence not compliant with internal and/or external requirements
Often times, all these issues are at play!
By and large, cloud solutions have helped ease the issue to some extent as much of IT infrastructure and related management is, in effect, outsourced to the vendor. However, to be truly effective, SMEs would benefit from a homogeneous ‘platform’ of integrated business applications. These kinds of platforms would:
- Offer a suite of (ideally native) applications that suit the needs of the different departments and functions
- Include tools and functionality to configure and customise the application to fit business needs without requiring deep technical skills
- Provide a single sign-on to the suite, with a consistent user interface to all applications available
- Be integrated so that business processes can be run seamlessly across different functions, and enable staff to collaborate more effectively in the way they work
- Be managed by a single vendor, to ease the complexities involved with billing cycles and contract management
Larger enterprises have this, as they have the deep pockets needed to invest in solutions from industry giants such as SAP and the like. But, what is available for SMEs?
Well, the good news is that there are some great options around, available at a relatively lower cost than what the giants charge. Microsoft Dynamics 365, NetSuite, and Odoo are great examples of what I would consider ‘integrated application platforms’ – priced to suit most SMEs. Whilst very credible solutions, we are still talking in terms of £100+ per user per month in licencing costs. So, whilst within the reach of mid-sized businesses, these cost levels may still challenge small businesses.
Another strong option is Zoho ONE which, priced at only £30 per user per month, offers an integrated suite of 40+ applications that support the core requirements of almost any kind of business. Zoho, which has been around for over two decades, now boasts a worldwide customer base of 250,000 businesses, and some 35 million users. So, it’s pretty popular – and there are many good reasons why I recommend Zoho to be a critical shortlist contender for any SME.
It’s also the reason why I founded ZED Consulting and, for customers that choose Zoho ONE, we have created a new and unique consulting services package called ZED OFFICE.
With ZED OFFICE our consultants work with you to draw up a blueprint and roadmap to deliver a transformation programme aligned with your business priorities and aims. The programme is then implemented over the course of a 12 month term, alongside a comprehensive support service. The costs for delivering the programme would be billed on an affordable, monthly subscription basis to help you manage your project budget and cash flow.