The availability of cloud-based technologies has helped level the playing field for small businesses around the world. Technology that used to depend on expensive and complicated infrastructure is now available to anyone with access to the internet.
Many small businesses have been quick to embrace this opportunity, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With 26% of small businesses investing in cloud based technologies such as Google Drive and Slack, according to a recent survey by Xero.
As a result, there has been a proliferation of tools, offering everything from digital payments and instant messaging, to predictive analytics. For small businesses, the challenge is finding the right combination of tools to help make them more competitive.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to small business owners feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices. In many cases, having to reassess their technology stack every time a SaaS provider updates their pricing strategy.
For some startups it might make sense to build their own technology stack from the very beginning. However, most small businesses would be better served by an all-in-one solution that can tackle multiple use cases.
All-in-one collaboration tools for example, are not only able to speed up decision making within individual teams, but across the entire business. Beyond internal communication, they can sometimes also open up discussions with clients, partners, freelancers or volunteers.
Lowers the cost of doing business
The proliferation of cloud based technologies has resulted in products that are designed to perform a very specific business function. This makes sense when targeting a global enterprise with different departments and job functions. Nevertheless, it is often an overdeveloped solution, especially for startups and smaller businesses with more generalist roles.
Having to purchase a number of different tools can quickly consume a large proportion of a small business’ budget, especially when paying for multiple memberships. These tools are often targeted at larger enterprises as well. This can make them unaffordable to smaller companies, or price them out completely if there is a minimum company size.
These problems especially impact small businesses in the developing world, who often try to compete with less access to capital, and lower purchasing power.
Some of the more accessible tools on the market include Buffer for social media management, Figma for product and marketing design, and Rock for collaboration. These all-in-one platforms enable small businesses to carry out all of the necessary activities for a certain aspect of their business in one place. All of this without blowing their budget, or having to update their tech stack every few months.
Enables faster decision making
According to a global survey of decision makers at companies with less than 1,000 employees conducted by SAP, 49.3 percent of decision makers believe that technology levels the playing field for small businesses when competing against larger companies.
That being said, technology is rarely in and of itself the thing that allows small businesses to compete. Technology is a means to an end, allowing smaller organizations to be more agile and adaptable than their larger counterparts.
All-in-one tools speed up the decision making process by making all of the relevant information available in one place. Built-in video and messaging functionality can help to reduce the amount of face-to-face time required to make a decision. This enables asynchronous work for teams that are distributed around the world.
Smaller tool stacks also make it easier for everyone in the business to be part of the conversation. Shallow learning curves allow people to get up to speed quicker compared to custom implementations.
Provides access to a wider pool of talent
All-in-one tools make it easier for employees to collaborate because they provide a centralized hub with a single end-to-end workflow. This means more focus, and less time spent switching between different tools.
They also allow individuals to develop a more rounded skill set. Mainly because there is less focus on highly specialized tools and individual parts of a process. Instead, employees grasp the full scope of their role, and even branch out into other areas of expertise.
In addition to the business benefits, these platforms can provide opportunities for people in parts of the world that might not normally have access to job opportunities matching their areas of interest and expertise. In some cases this can be exploitative, but for organizations that embrace equitable compensation, it can be a win-win situation.
For example, a good all-in-one collaboration tool can help small businesses become more competitive by unlocking a global talent pool. With centralized communications and strong documentation small businesses can focus purely on finding the right person for the role. All this without having to think of considering commute times, office communication mechanics and face-to-face dependent collaboration mechanics.
Even for small businesses that require people to be on-premise part of the time, all-in-one tools enable more flexible ways of working. A helpful option as remote working opportunities create more competitive labor markets.
Empowering small businesses around the world
Small businesses represent over 90% of the business population, 60-70% of employment, and 55% of GDP in developed economies, according to the World Trade Organization. They also form an important part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to “promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all”.
Much of recent news coverage has focused on household names such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Nevertheless, small businesses are facing the same challenges presented by the future of work, forcing many to reassess work.
Speed and agility have always been a competitive advantage for small businesses. But, in order to adapt, and embrace the changes required to succeed in a digital-first world, they also need access to the right tools—without being barred by pricing walls or limited functionality.