Trends in SMB collaboration, communication, and productivity – what’s your strategy?

June 28, 2018 Charlotte Sturman

Small businesses have traditionally held a key advantage over larger competitors. Smaller company size gives SMBs greater agility and flexibility to respond to business opportunities. Lower headcount also means that technology can be focused on the needs of individual employees or workgroups.

But rapidly evolving technology trends place SMBs at risk of seeing their advantage slip away. Larger rivals are getting leaner, adopting agile working methods that used to belong to smaller challengers. And now they pursue market opportunities once the preserve of SMBs.

SMB owners should track the impact of these trends and consider how they should inform your business communications strategies. They must ensure the strategy you decide is tuned to the digital dynamics that now shape the conduct of business for companies of all sizes.

Digital transformation drives productivity

Take digital transformation programmes. These bring radical change to the way companies small and large operate. For SMBs particularly, these transformations have a profound effect on productivity. Most find that their current approach to provisioning business communications no longer meets the needs of their workforce, partners and customers. Unilateral Communications have to become unified communications – UC.

UC brings productivity gains by integrating different business communications services onto a single platform. Instead of having separate solutions for voice, email, messaging and conferencing, say, each mode of communication is part of one software solution. When your employees want to share or collaborate in real-time the tools they need are easily accessed, always available.

So the first way UC makes your workers more productive is by freeing them from the hassle of trying to do their jobs with multiple communications tools and apps. With UC, for instance, single IDs replace multiple numbers for desktop and mobile phones, multiple log-ins for different conferencing services, and so on. No compatibility issues between communications products to sort out means workforce collaboration is seamless.

Employees who work remotely can be easily connect and participate in video-conferences from their laptop or smartphone, their workflows readily accessible to all project group colleagues. This saves time and resources, cuts confusion and stress.

Unified Communications business benefits survey

UC has inaccurately been associated with the needs of larger enterprises. But such solutions can deliver measurable business benefits to smaller organisations as well. This is evidenced in the results of a survey of UC adoption success rates by Forrester Research of more than 130 SMBs in financial services.

Their responses identified and evaluated many business gains, such as:

  • More effective team collaboration: e.g., 73% of respondents save time with the ability to reach decision makers across a single number.
  • Improved sales performance: e.g., new sales proposals not held up by internal activities that require OKs from uncontactable managers; and 69% of respondents say they would generate more revenue if online customers could digitally interact with experts via UC.
  • Increased employee productivity: e.g., the ability to save time in meeting set-up and project completion; 67% of respondents save time by improving internal communications for projects or customer applications.

UCaaS changes the game for SMBs

All that said, why have some SMBs been slow to adopt UC? It’s a question well worth asking because you’ll find that old stock answers simply no longer apply.

For instance, UC has been thought to require high CAPEX needed to upgrade IT infrastructures. It was also believed to require special skills to manage UC systems. Both fallacies have been overtaken by market forces – forces driven by cloud.

Cloud is the transformative factor that makes UC adoption a viable proposition for SMBs. And it has a strong role to play in driving digital transformation. It means that UC solutions vendors can offer SMBs a UC proposition that offers a productivity-driven ROI. Such offerings are usually called UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS).

Cloud delivery offers tangible ROI

Cloud makes UC more affordable in other ways. Procuring UCaaS means that it can be budgeted for as operating expenditure, not capital expenditure. It’s worth checking if prospective UC vendors let SMBs procure only the features they require. That leaves the option to add-in new features as your business expands. And UCaaS solutions come with cloud-based support – there’s no need to hire more techies.

Finally, another good reason for making UC key to your communications strategy review. By enabling your workforce to work more efficiently, your employees gain in value. They become more proficient, more collaborative, and are digitally-enabled to share knowledge and expertise on-demand – whether that’s with colleagues, customers or business partners.

About the Author

Charlotte Sturman

Proud and privileged to work as part of the superhero (and heroine!) EMEAR Content Marketing Team for Cisco Collaboration. Writing content and telling stories about Cisco's amazing portfolio of transformational working technologies. The future of work is here!

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