Leaders in small businesses often find themselves taking part in the ultimate juggling act, involved with everything from marketing to HR to finance. IT can easily get lost in this rocky sea of competing demands, especially since SMBs often don’t tend to have much dedicated IT resource. In fact, according to recent research, the majority of SMBs (68%) haven’t increased their IT budgets since 2017 – by contrast, over half of bigger businesses have done so.
Many small businesses are subsequently missing out on the cloud revolution – according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), less than half of SMBs have used cloud services (40%), online data storage or back up (37%), or file transfer technology (33%).
Why does this matter? After all, some might argue that big IT budgets and sophisticated technological tools are for large, complex enterprise organisations. Yet through Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), SMBs can get easy access to capabilities they might not have been able to afford two decades or so ago, when businesses made big investments in on-premise tools. They have a lot to gain from the SaaS explosion.
SMBs thrive on being able to go where big enterprises cannot, often through a combination of a fresh perspective on the market and the agility that comes with their size. For these plucky businesses, being creative and working together well can be a key advantage. These characteristics can help them to spot a powerful new idea and then bring it to fruition quickly.
Work about work
Cloud tools can help SMBs to double down on these advantages by making it easier for employees to work together smoothly and to tap into their creativity. For instance, a direct-to-consumer fashion start-up can quickly create a new promotional video to coincide with Black Friday using Adobe tools. Moreover, using a cloud-based communication tool like Zoom, they can rapidly get feedback and constructive criticism on the promo from a US-based investor who previously worked in advertising.
But it’s understandable that a small business might have doubts about deploying so many different tools. After all, coordinating work between a lot of different applications can be complicated, and SMBs often don’t have the IT resource to help them manage that drawn-out process. Moreover, it can also be rather time consuming – think of how frustrating it can be when you have to keep switching between different tools that don’t ‘talk’ to each other or have to work with lots of files in different formats. According to McKinsey, this kind of ‘work about work’ consumes on average around 60% of people’s working week – leaving only 40% for actual work.
Taking advantage of SaaS
How can SMBs tap into the power of SaaS tools without drowning themselves in this kind of creativity-killing, energy-sapping busy work? Well, at risk of sounding repetitive, more cloud. The key is to identify the kind of tools that work across different tasks – bridging the gap between tools that you use for creativity, collaboration, and communication. By bringing together disparate conversations and bits of work together, you don’t only reduce the time your employees spend switching between tools – you also create new possibilities by making it easier for people to bring distinct technical and creative capabilities to the same central place.
SMBs are the lifeblood of the British economy, driving forward fresh ideas and approaches. They have so much to gain from the SaaS revolution, but first they must ensure they can tap into the power of cloud tools without creating more work for themselves. The answer lies in ensuring employees have access to one unified cloud workspace, which in turn helps employees work in one tool for longer without the need for switching. Because having multiple cloud-based apps don’t automatically boost productivity – and in some cases can decrease productivity – a ‘home cloud’ can be a place where SMBs bring it all back home.
Geraldine McCarthy, Head of EMEA at Dropbox Business