In this article, you will learn about:
- Key growth areas for SMEs in the Caribbean
- Available cloud solutions to deal with growth challenges
SME Business Growth
Are you an SME operating in the Caribbean? Think of your business and the growth challenges you might be experiencing.
Many of the Caribbean’s small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are today actively searching for more ways to grow and scale their businesses while maintaining high levels of productivity, reducing expenditure and maintaining a competitive edge.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that can solve every SME challenge. Once you focus on what your core challenges are, the skill levels of your team and where you want to go next, you’ll be on the right path. Not every solution you encounter will be the right one for you but, there are others that will be easily adaptable and can be employed to help address your growth needs.
Cloud solutions like Office 365, provide SMEs with agile and cost-effective means of achieving many of their major goals, thereby enabling growth. Interestingly, SMEs stand to gain the most from cloud solutions. From email to storage, customer management to invoicing and device management to online meetings, the application opportunities are extensive across multiple lines of operation.
In this post we look at a few areas important to SMEs in relation to growing their business, and the Microsoft cloud solutions currently enabling their innovation and expansion.
Key Area for Growth #1
Increasing employee productivity
In a recent survey, 59.7% of Caribbean business leaders acknowledged “increasing employee productivity” as the top most area for achieving growth in the months ahead. Similarly, in the United States, 40% of businesses cited “increasing employee productivity” as a key business goal and highlighted it as a major challenge that hindered growth.
To be productive, you must be efficient in the workplace. Working in the cloud bolsters this efficiency and improves collaboration speeds in various ways. Among these are:
Automation – With the Microsoft Office 365 cloud solution, employee tasks are simplified. The Microsoft Flow app give SMEs the capability to automate business processes by building workflows based on certain triggers and actions. For example, in SharePoint, when a new document is added to a list, an email can be sent to a manager asking for approval or feedback.
Flexibility – With cloud technology, employees have the flexibility to be part of the workflow processes even while they’re out of office. This avoids delays in completing critical tasks. Using any mobile device with a browser, employees out-of-office can receive notifications directly and act on them.
Project Management – A lack of collaboration can have an astoundingly negative impact on productivity. Consequently, SMEs are seeking out ways to better manage projects. With Microsoft Teams, SMEs have a centralized space to build conversations around projects. Utilizing the Microsoft Planner add-on with Teams, employees have visibility of all tasks related to a project. A shared calendar add-on guarantees that everyone is aware of due dates and deadlines, so nothing is ever missed.
Key Area for Growth #2
It is becoming much easier, practical and cost-effective for small businesses to purchase cloud services. Unlike their larger counterparts, small businesses do not have the financial or human resources to purchase or upkeep all the required on-premise infrastructure. This limits the growth and expansion possibilities for SMEs.
With cloud services, the operations of a business can be more streamlined, and their IT problems can be passed on to the cloud vendor. Software-as-Service (SaaS) – MS Office, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server and Lync Server, has proven to be the most valuable for SMEs. Solutions like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Microsoft Azure, can help to compliment your SaaS technology. These offer more scalable solutions that eliminate the need for expensive equipment, extensive personnel and the recurring costs of upgrading.
An IaaS solution for Caribbean SMEs is Microsoft Azure. Azure is an instant computing infrastructure, managed over the internet. It allows businesses to scale up or down on-demand, and only pay for what is needed. Azure manages this infrastructure while you purchase, install configure and take care of your own software, applications, and operating systems, saving you time and money.
Key Area for Growth #3
SMEs by their very nature are structured for better collaboration among employees. Smaller work units mean that senior staff are more visible and accessible than in bigger enterprises. Streamlining the opportunities for collaboration and improving the internal communication structure, can only enhance their situation.
SME communication is now more robust with cloud solutions. Applications like Microsoft Office 365 have integrated chat and video call features which make it easier to connect with team members. Recent statistics show that 39% of all corporate data uploaded to the cloud is related to file sharing applications. That is a lot of shared data. The ability to manage this data quickly and easily is of vital importance which is why a cloud solution such as Microsoft SharePoint is so valuable to SMEs. Cloud-based file management improves team collaboration by providing:
- Instant access to files – no matter where the team is located
- Syncing of files
- Version control
- Large file storage, uploads, and downloads
With an application like SharePoint, Anita in Japan and Delton in Jamaica can now make edits to the same file in real time without ever having to pick up the phone.
Key Area for Growth #4
Business growth from new and existing customers
By investing in the right cloud-based services, SMEs can successfully scale. A perfect example of using cloud services to scale businesses is marketing automation. Businesses are now opting to automate many marketing and sales functions with marketing automation software. The host of mundane tasks that employees typically work on may best be taken care of by automation software.
Using a solution like Microsoft Dynamics, businesses can organize all their current clients, capture leads, and more. With an add-on like ClickDimensions, businesses can better nurture relationships with clients, and increase the opportunity to grow by sending emails, reminders, newsletters and other goodies to customers and prospects.
Key Area for Growth #5
Automating and improving business processes and operations
The increase in productivity that the cloud provides; the reduction in operation costs and the removal of manual upgrades to on-premise infrastructure are just some of the ways businesses can improve processes and operations. Many of the previously discussed cloud solutions contribute to this key business goal. There is a world of possibilities available with Microsoft Office 365. Applications like Teams, SharePoint, and Yammer improve processes significantly and solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM enable processes to be better followed and operations to be more streamlined.
As SMEs move forward, strategic planning must become a focal task for its leaders, with cloud computing at the center of this planning. When that decision is made, businesses must also look for a trusted and experienced partner to make the move to cloud computing as a smooth and seamless transition will be key.
Think of your business once more. Are there any growth challenges you face that can be solved with cloud solutions?