Or, how Covid changed IT forever.
Ah, yes. Covid. Lockdowns, tiers before bedtime, ‘work events. As the UK begins to recover and go back to whatever normal looked like to them, some things will never be the same again. Instead of trying to forget how grim everything was, it makes sense for the IT-savvy SME to embrace the benefits – and there were some, honest.
So, how was 2021 for you? Not good, probably. Our social and professional lives faced challenges we’d never expected or experienced. Every day brought fresh issues to overcome and problems to solve. And while you had to hit pause on many things, business had to keep pressing play and was ingenious in doing so. Fast forward to today. What’s changed now that Covid 19 is no longer a thing?
The pivot from heading into the office, shop or factory and doing it all from home forced many companies into new ways of working simply because they had to do so to survive. The remote worker was born. Juggling home schooling with being a professional [insert job title here] felt like an impossible task, but as everyone from CEOs downwards were living the same reality, the full force of IT – and ingenuity – swung into action. And it worked because the people did. There’s no way back.
At a stroke, many businesses’ plans for digital transformation were moved from the ‘nice to have’ column to ‘let’s get this done, now’ in terms of priority. This Salesforce survey, The Small to Medium Business Trends Report offers some notable facts.
- 50% of growing SMEs offered flexible working arrangements during the pandemic.
- The top employee expectation is now flexible scheduling.
- 27% of SME leaders have focused on connecting employees’ passions to their work*
Basically, this all means that the old management ideal of getting everyone into the same workspace at the same time has gone. People can work from home, remain productive, and the bosses know it. So, the thinking goes, we may as well ensure people have everything, they need to do what they used to do at work, at home. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Roll with it.
So, that’s what the sensible SME business is doing. Essentially applying the principles of digital transformation. While that means an initial investment in infrastructure, the rewards are there, too. As is always the case in business, the customer drives the agenda and many of us who were forced to switch to a life of online commerce have stayed there. It makes sense, therefore, that companies meet that need. These figures were also derived from the report.
- 77% of SMEs either have ecommerce or plan to add it in the next year.
- Nearly a third of SMEs (31%) have added ecommerce in the past year.
- 71% of SME leaders say their customers now expect online interactions.
- 72% of SMEs have increased their online presence in the last 12 months.
As the report authors note, “SMEs are not just waiting for customers to reach out – they’re finding new ways to reach them as well. The biggest driver of this engagement? New technology.”
Expectations have changed. No longer are UK customers prepared to roll their eyes and quietly fume when put on hold or held in a queue: 83% of customers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company, 42% of SMEs have expanded the ways that customers can reach them. And that’s a connectivity play.
The different flavours of connection.
How these SMEs ‘expand’ their reachability depends on what they do, their IT profile, and what size customer base they serve. As a dedicated IT solutions provider, Sprint can meet the needs of all our customers by deploying the solution that makes sense for them. For example, if good quality access is essential for businesses, a switch to cloud-based applications including voice and collaboration applications and services and fast Internet access, makes sound business sense.
Meanwhile, thinking less about the technology on either end of the pipe and more about the pipe itself might be a higher priority. Modern ethernet does the same job as cabling the width of mooring rope, just better. It’s powerful, agile, and robust enough to support IP telephony, video, and conferencing solutions. Suddenly instant messaging means exactly that. Anything less than bullet-proof end-to-end connectivity and communication isn’t fit for future purpose.
It’s worth also considering SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking. There’s a definition of SIP here. SIP connects a business’s private branch exchange (PBX), the company’s internal private phone network to users within a company or organization and beyond. The PBX is hooked to the provider’s national network via broadband, Ethernet, or a private circuit.
That’s a wrap.
If that all sounds (a) baffling (b) too complex and therefore (c) something to avoid, it’s none of those things if you ask the right people. And be warned, doing nothing is not an option. As the report warns, gravely, ‘SMEs that don’t offer personalised communications going forward will find it difficult to compete with those that do. In fact, many customers now assume that their interactions with a company will be efficient and personalised.”
Let’s talk. Assuming your connections can handle it.
*Basically, keeping remote workers closer to the mothership.