Small-business owners have had to learn pretty quickly when it comes to provisioning, deploying, maintaining and optimizing new technologies.
According to Tom Stachowiak, Senior Vice President and CTO of Birch Communications. price increases aside, the most important matter to remember is that IT is a central aspect of corporate performance whether small-business owners like it or not, and it will be virtually impossible to remain relevant in the coming years without a winning technology strategy in place.
To stay competitive the golden rule is proper planning and investment into the right technologies is the key to success. With that in mind here are some of the hottest “IT transformation” trends SMBs should be looking at closely at now, or risk getting left behind:
- Cloud computing:Innovation and the rise of new movements such as enterprise mobility and telecommuting have certainly helped to push the cloud in the right direction, but the reasons why companies begin to invest in the solutions have remained somewhat similar over time. From lowering capital expenditures and boosting the capabilities of IT, to enhancing the ways in which employees communicate with one another and interact with clientele, the cloud's core functionality is continuing to fuel evolution in the private sector.
Cloud computing has been among the hottest technologies on the market for a decade or so, which would lead many to believe that it is reaching a plateau of sorts where innovation, adoption rates and diversification would begin to flat-line. This has not been remotely the case, as even the largest, most successful cloud services vendors continue to compete in a highly sought-after market.
The result has been completely positive for small-business owners, as they can now choose from highly personalized and specialized options, many of which are decreasing in cost thanks to a major price war taking place at the top of the industry.
What's more, some of the most transformative trends in corporate computing and general IT have all been intrinsically linked to cloud services utilization - including big data and the Internet of Things, which are much more demanding on infrastructure and technology managers.
Indeed, a study from Harvard Business Review's Analytic Service revealed that 84 percent of business leaders who responded have begun to use cloud services for more processes. This is likely the result of companies moving more of their core software into cloud-based environments, and the rapid rise of Infrastructure-as-a-Service adoption to replace old legacy systems.
Researchers also found that the three main reasons why organizations have deployed cloud solutions—budget control, agility and collaboration—are still leading decision-makers in this direction. However, collaboration was the most common catalyst for investments into the cloud in this iteration of the report, with three-quarters of respondents citing it as the most important aspect.
- The-as-a-Service economy is rolling along at full steam: Interaction has been one of the more prominent drivers of new IT deployments and innovation in the information and communications technology arena for more than a decade, and will likely remain as such in the form of enterprise mobility, the IoT and unified communications. An important trend to watch here involves the increasing convergence of objectives in different areas of the business, as well as the positioning of the cloud as a vehicle through which the company can achieve substantial performance improvements across those objectives/initiatives.
- Tech-based transformation:"Self-service-centric companies are rising to the top of their respective markets."Another aspect of IT decision-making that is changing rapidly involves the skill with which companies can effectively leverage modern technology to change the proverbial game in each of their respective markets. Many startups have already blazed new trails with respect to the use of modern software and infrastructure for completely different and transformative products and services targeted at other businesses and consumers.
IDC recently explained that the biggest winners today appear to be those that have really focused upon getting the self-service aspects of consumer relations right, as evidenced by new giants such as Uber and Lyft. "Companies taking leadership positions defining health/hearth/personal services webs will gain the opportunity to out-uber Uber. Think about it, Uber changes how you use a taxi.
Here, companies can help their customers pare down their monthly grocery expenses, save time and effort on shopping chores, and care for themselves and their loved ones day in and day out. What's more, these companies will increase their revenues and reduce their own costs and risk," explains IDC Retail Insights Program Director Greg Girard.
Small-business owners would do well to rethink their strategies in the coming years, keeping a keen eye on how technology can be used to boost financial and operational performances.
- Use VoIP as a business phone service:If there's one service that every single new company should have, it's VoIP. As Small Business Computing reported, VoIP is a tool that gives any size business access to large enterprise-level services - and it comes with a single, consistent rate that makes it easy to budget for a few months ahead of time. It's incredibly rare to find a new business that doesn't employ the Internet in some fashion, and VoIP takes advantage of a system that's already in place.
Of course, since VoIP does take up more bandwidth than traditional Internet activity, it's important to have a network that can accommodate the influx of traffic. And don't think that because your business lives in the digital age, you won't need a phone service at all. Having the semblance of a traditional landline makes customers feel comfortable and many will still call in to the store with their questions - forgoing the service altogether would be an imprudent idea.
- Backend systems should be at forefront!:With cloud apps used for a wider range of processes, as well as the trend toward more demanding and challenging ICT assets entering into the corporate infrastructure, system management and maintenance has to be a top concern. For example, if a firm were to deploy a strategy for the IoT that did not involve any provisions for enhanced network capabilities and other infrastructure fortifications, it would likely fail to launch the initiative.
Thus BetaNews recently argued that networks will likely act as a battleground for many companies as the race continues for more power and more security. Data security is reliant upon strong protection of the network, while bandwidth and functionality will tend to dictate how seamlessly a company navigates the recovery process from a major disaster or even a small outage.
BetaNews also argues that the same holds true for cloud computing assets, especially when they are hosted in an environment outside of the main operating facility. For this reason and many more, companies will need to put a greater emphasis on network management and monitoring to avoid persistent disruptions to service availability, rising rates of intrusions and other inherent risks of doing business in the modern age.
Typically SMBs often face the greatest challenges when it comes to orchestrating the entirety of their ICT frameworks into a resilient, protected and high-powered strategy, especially when they try to go it alone. Leveraging the support of a managed service provider to help prepare networks and other aspects of infrastructure for more progressive and technologically advanced trends will likely be the best bet in these situations.
Tom Stachowiak, Senior Vice President and CTO of Birch Communications able