For a very long time, small businesses in the UK have seen themselves at a disadvantage compared to their larger rivals. In most cases, that disadvantage came down to the enormous disparity between the resources available to small and large organizations. In other words – more money buys more tools and technology to gain a competitive edge.
But the ever-advancing digital revolution is beginning to make that traditional power dynamic a thing of the past. Today, small businesses have access to more tools and technologies that used to be reserved for bigger competitors than ever before. And with the economic turmoil created by the COVID-19 pandemic bearing down on UK SMEs, now is the perfect time for them to look for every advantage they can find.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the most important big-business tech that the UK’s SMEs can now use to solidify their market position and boost their bottom lines.
Enterprise Resource Planning Systems
One of the most important tools that big businesses use to increase their efficiency and gain critical insight into their operations is known as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Put simply, it’s a central hub that allows an organization to manage every aspect of its operations. For example, large manufacturers might handle payroll, raw materials ordering, human resources, and inventory control all from within the same single ERP system. That gives them the ability to analyse how their business operates at a granular level, and exercise precise control over interconnected processes.
The only trouble is, early ERP systems cost millions of dollars, putting them well out of reach of the average SME. But today, the growth of cloud services has made it possible for SMEs to implement a full-featured ERP solution without the sky-high costs. In some cases, a subscription to a cloud-based ERP system that’s tailored for SMEs can cost as little as £9 for basic functionality, with prices increasing depending on the feature set required. And at a price point that low, every SME in the UK should look into an ERP system to see how it might enhance their productivity and decrease costs.
Big Data and Analytics Tools
In recent years, big businesses have started to recognise that harnessing the data they harvest from customers and their internal processes (such as their ERP systems) can yield significant insight that translates into greater profits. At the heart of those efforts is a new generation of big data and analytics tools that help businesses collect, standardize, and turn their data into actionable insights. It’s become such a valuable business practice that some 67% of UK businesses have now adopted it.
But that adoption rate grew mostly on the backs of significant investment by big businesses, leaving SMEs to play catch-up. And that’s something they can now do because of the numerous big data analytics platforms that offer on-demand access to the same data tools that the big boys use. In the current environment, SMEs can use those platforms to help identify their most valuable customers, avoid wasting resources on under-performing marketing strategies, and to unlock many other bottom-line boosting strategies that they would have otherwise struggled to identify.
Remote Work Productivity
And last, but certainly not least, SMEs in the UK should begin to take advantage of the myriad productivity tools that can help increase the efficiency and output of their newly-remote workforces. Those tools used to be a big secret of large companies, who had the infrastructure and IT expertise necessary to support workers while they travelled for work or opted to take advantage of work-from-home schemes offered by their employers.
Now that the UK’s SME community has had to have a crash-course in supporting an all-remote workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they should learn the lessons that the big boys have known for some time. And the key to most of those lessons is that remote workers can only function at their best when furnished with the proper tools to support them as they adapt to the challenges that come from working remotely. As a reward, SMEs will unlock greater productivity and lower overhead. And those benefits are so attractive, in fact, that a full 83% of London-based SMEs plan to continue with remote work even after they’re no longer prohibited from gathering in their offices.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it’s clear that SMEs would be leaving so much on the table if they failed to take advantage of some of these aforementioned tools and technologies. Together, they comprise a business arsenal that big companies have used to great effect – in some cases turning them into the giants we know today.
And as the economic headwinds intensify, no business can afford to forgo any potential advantage available to them. In the coming weeks and months, the efficiencies these bits of big-business tech can bring to SMEs could well be the difference in them weathering the storm or succumbing to the challenges that lay ahead. And when viewed in that light, the correct course of action should be more than clear.