Small business and emerging technology

by Ricoh Australia 27 Jan 2017

How your small business can benefit from emerging technology

Embracing digital technology

The gradual increase in our daily use of mobile technology demonstrates just how many Australian businesses have recognised the importance of digital technology and embraced it, offering more and more services online.

Opportunities for small and medium businesses

Emerging technology has fundamentally changed Australians' daily lives. We now tap our credit cards to pay for purchases faster, check in for flights and present boarding passes on our smartphones, work from anywhere using collaborative technology from our mobile devices, and much more. In fact, Australians love mobile connectivity so much that 21 per cent of us only ever use the internet via a mobile device.1

However, many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have assumed that this type of technology is only accessible for enterprise players. And, in the past, that may have been true. But the falling cost of technology means there are plenty of opportunities for SMBs to work more flexibly and productively, delivering the kind of services their customers have come to expect from much larger organisations.

There are four key ways SMBs can incorporate emerging technology into their businesses to achieve a competitive edge.

  1. Digital and mobile payments

    The use of cash in Australia collapsed by 30 per cent in the six years between 2007 and 2013, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia.2 This means Australian consumers are increasingly using cash-free payment methods ranging from tap-and-go cards and PayPal to BPay and smartphone-based contactless purchases in store. Even paying back a friend can be as simple as tapping a few keys on a smartphone.

    Enabling consumers use this technology in your business gives you new insights into what consumers are buying and when. It also makes the purchasing process frictionless, encouraging consumers to buy more, more often.

  2. Use the cloud

    SMBs spend considerable amounts of their IT budgets maintaining legacy hardware and applications. This budget could potentially be better spent elsewhere, delivering innovation.

    By moving apps and workloads to the cloud where appropriate, SMBs can release IT staff from mundane, daily tasks like administration, allowing them find new ways to add real value to the business.

    Using the cloud to buy and manage key operational software, like enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, or even HR and accounts payable systems, can give SMBs access to enterprise-class software that can be scaled to meet their needs.

    The scalability and pay-as-you-use nature of cloud also delivers increased efficiencies and, potentially, cost savings that can't be ignored.

  3. Digitise your processes

    Too many businesses rely purely on paper-based processes, which can make the business less efficient and more error-prone. Digitising these processes not only reduces the use of paper and lowers the chance of errors, but it also streamlines them, requiring less human intervention. Integrating the processes so that data is only entered once, for example, shaves time from every process.

    This has additional benefits such as making information instantly available, and helps prepare the business to digitise payments, all of which adds up to a significant speed advantage.

    Doing this in the cloud adds even more efficiencies and advantages, while also improving security, because digitisation reduces the chances of paper-based documents being lost, and a reputable cloud provider should offer significant security measures to protect information at rest and in transit.

  4. Mobilise employees

    Most Australian employees would prefer to work remotely (63 per cent) while just 35 per cent prefer to work in the office every day, according to recent research. And more than half of Australians would also prefer to work flexible hours rather than a traditional working week.3

    SMBs can untether employees by implementing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy or even providing company-issued mobile devices. However, it's essential to maintain security and a tight rein on costs. SMBs should consider how to let employees connect to public Wi-Fi safely, and consider providing mobile desktop access or a virtual private network (VPN) for increased control.

How to move forward

Even if it seems like your organisation is doing just fine, it's widely-accepted that new technologies will offer benefits; and your suppliers, customers, and employees would prefer to work with an organisation that offers the latest in connectivity and productivity.

Organisations should take a stepwise approach to implementing new technology. This includes:

  • identifying the challenges and opportunities in your business
  • seeking advice from experts to prioritise and decide on the right solutions for your needs
  • planning carefully, identifying the risks in your business and how you can mitigate them
  • developing a timetable that is realistic and achievable
  • communicating clearly, consistently, and constantly with employees
  • keeping suppliers and customers informed of new improvements to the service you offer them as a result.