For a long time, small to medium businesses (SMBs) have had a clear view of their competitors, with every local business that could possibly compete for their customers listed neatly in its own section of the Yellow Pages.
Not only has the internet shaken things up by putting countless new, unseen competitors online, but the rise of new business models and easy access to online tools aimed at helping more businesses start and grow means competition is fiercer than ever and SMBs need any edge they can find to push ahead.
In many cases, using the right technology can go a long way to helping a business thrive, and helping them find, implement, and make the most of it is Cisco.
Speaking at Cisco Live 2018, director of the partner business group at Cisco, Tara Ridley said the SMB market is now the fastest-growing for the company across Australia and New Zealand following the company’s shifting from its traditional focus on the enterprise market to small and medium businesses.
As Ridley put it, this has been driven by demand from SMBs themselves.
“I think the SMB sector is, in particular, very ambitious; SMBs want to grow and they want to really exceed expectations. It’s obviously highly competitive, so they’re asking for and needing technology to be a differentiator for them because it means they can respond to their customers quicker, deliver a higher level of customer service, attract the right talent from an employee standpoint, and be generally more productive. That’s what they need from technology,” she said.
using the right technology can go a long way to helping a business thrive
“I think what’s exciting for the SMB sector is that the demands that we have as consumers, and what we expect at home from the services we use as a consumer, are now coming into business; having simplicity and responsiveness, being able to work from anywhere, and being able to be productive and serve your customers anywhere is now a requirement to succeed.”
With these factors in mind, the 2017 IDC Custom SMB Survey commissioned by Cisco, which polled more than 900 SMBs across Australia, India, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore, found the top three business priorities for SMBs are to reduce costs, gain operational efficiency, and improve productivity.
These priorities, in turn, have given rise to a number of tech needs. The survey found that when it comes to their IT priorities, IT security, improving IT skillsets and productivity, better decision making, and cost savings are top of mind for SMBs, feeding back into their overall business priorities.
However, while their priorities may be clear, finding and tailoring the right technology to suit their particular business has traditionally not been easy for SMB owners, who lack tech expertise.
“Unlike big enterprises that would have an IT manager or IT department, in an SMB it’s usually the owner that is having to set the business up and trying to find out where to start,” Ridley said.
To give SMBs a helping hand and figure out where to begin, Cisco has established Cisco Start, a portfolio of solutions tailored to SMBs. Rather than retro-fitting an enterprise suite of tech for smaller businesses, Cisco has been working with small to medium businesses to understand their particular needs and develop the right solutions.
As Ridley put it, the portfolio provides enterprise-level technology, scaled down for SMBs and set at prices realistic for businesses of this size, to ensure everything is taken care of across the whole business.
“Whether they need help with security because they’re worried about ransom attacks, whether they need connectivity or collaboration tools, if they need to be able to run conference calls, connect with their employees, or connect with their customers, it’s all specifically designed for the SMB,” Ridley said.
From the Cisco Meraki, a portfolio of networking devices managed from the cloud to keep everyone online and connected, to the Cisco Spark board, which encourages collaboration, solutions within the Cisco Start portfolio were designed with simplicity and security in mind; they are easy to set up, manage, and monitor, with flexible on-premise and cloud solutions available for tailoring to any sized business.
SMB owners are also given easy access to reporting and insights through user-friendly dashboards to ensure full visibility across their business.
As Cisco sees it, it’s about time this technology is being put into the hands of SMBs, a market which can no longer go unnoticed – according to IDC, the SMB sector is growing at 7.5 percent per year.
While the long-held stereotype of the SMB owner is that of someone so tech-phobic that they don’t even see the value in having a website, Ridley believes they are in fact more tech-savvy than they seem, and as more SMBs embark on their digital transformation, Cisco wants to grow alongside them.
Ridley said, “SMBs are agile, they’re nimble, and they’re really ambitious; they want to change and they want to change fast.”
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