Part 3 of “Analytics Connection for SMBs” series

The endless parade of emerging technology is gaining the attention of large enterprises and startups alike. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, robotic process automation, and cognitive computing – all of these digital innovations and more are generating a range of disruptive innovation that is bridging gaps of unfulfilled customer demand.

But what about small and midsize businesses (SMB)? Does it make sense to spend limited resources to take advantage of these same technologies?

According to the IDC Analyst Connection, “Analytics for SMBs: Sharpen Operations, Capitalize on Business Opportunities,” such investments can bring a level of automation, electronic monitoring, and sensor-enabled insight not seen anywhere outside of the SMB segment. While the largest firms are busy refining processes in response to market dynamics, SMBs are close enough to customers and the competitive environment to effectuate change with tremendous speed and agility. Ray Boggs, vice president of Small and Medium Business Research at IDC, mentioned that the most successful small and midsize firms have the flexibility and adaptability to face competitive challenges.

SMBs Find Continuous Innovation When They Don’t Stay Behind

Emerging technologies do show great promise, but many SMBs are questioning whether they should leverage what’s available today or wait until the next wave of dramatic advancements to rush in. With technology evolving at an almost incomprehensible pace, investment decisions are a delicate balance of disrupting businesses processes and staying current. Both outcomes may be desirable, but firms rarely have the resources to adopt everything.

When SMBs find a technology that meets their needs, the expectation is a swift implementation and an even faster realization of intended outcomes and bottom-line value. For this reason, mainstream platforms and applications – especially those in the cloud – have been well-received. In fact, according to the IDC InfoBrief “Using Cloud Capabilities for Competitive Advantage: How Small and Midsize Companies Worldwide Are Adopting Cloud Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP, 68% of small companies and 87% of midsize firms are using cloud solutions.

The same degree of acceptance can be achieved with emerging technologies as they deliver three categories of benefits: core innovation, complex change, and highly complex transformation. By scaling capabilities in the cloud and paying for only the features that they consume, SMBs can spend valuable resources on low-hanging use cases that deliver immense value. Recently, I saw such a scenario unfold as a finance team took advantage of learned predictive capabilities in the cloud to manage expenses, costs, and vendor relationships with great accuracy.

As the business digitally matures and physically expands, new functionality can be added to the cloud platform as the need arises. To continue my customer example, the finance team is planning soon to grow to a point where the technology investment can take on more complicated tasks such as automation of repetitive, routine tasks, decisive routing, and problem-solving.

Emerging Technologies Advance SMB Competitiveness

Excel spreadsheets may help keep the lights on, but they will not help SMBs succeed and grow. Once a new competitor moves into a market domain by adopting emerging technology, the rest of the marketplace risks losing their position if they are not digitally maturing at the same rate.

Business leaders who keep their digital strategies updated in the face of ever-evolving technologies can help ensure that their workforce remains focused on future innovation and improves business performance. By placing strategic bets on disruptive technologies, decision makers can upend the market landscape by creating entirely new products, services, or business models while shifting value between producers or to consumers.

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This blog originally appeared as Part 3 of the “Analytics Connection for SMBs” series on Growth Matters Network and has been republished with permission.

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