Calling all SMB Innovators – Where are you?

Warning: This is an opinion piece and quite honestly, a rant. You have been warned.

Our business has been supporting the technology needs of SMBs for 12 years now, after we stepped out of the corporate world. The early years were comparatively easy – a business wanted I.T. support, we’d upgrade a server or two to newer software and bigger hardware and the addition of remote monitoring and management tools consolidated our efforts across our customer base. Nothing really extraordinary there.

Then along came the Cloud. I’ve written before about how the adoption of Cloud has varied amongst SMB IT Pros (excluding their customer base). For those who are now familiar with using, supporting & migrating to Cloud-based applications and/or infrastructure, there was a learning curve for sure as they picked up a new skillset.

To a point, IT Pros can handle a ‘replace your on-premises server’ discussion, if Cloud is a viable option for an SMB. To clarify further, this scenario involves replacing one piece of software functionality with another one that’s comparable. Yes it normally involves some number crunching, but it’s familiar and do-able, for both the customer and the IT Pro.

That’s often where the conversation stops. Sign up for a migration, chuck your data in the Cloud, carry on working as normal (with hopefully some cost savings or at least improved reliability).

Meanwhile, the tech community is buzzing with AI, IoT and VR. Is any of this valid for SMBs?

Maybe, but maybe not yet due to economies of scale.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a massive potential for business benefit that SMBs are missing out on because of one thing and one thing only: Change. Or, more accurately, lack of it.

It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro (sales skills, not technical skills) to convince an SMB that their whole organisation should change their email client, even if the whole organisation is 20 people. It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro to convert an SMB to using Cloud storage for documents (not file sync), when they are used to mapped network drives. It’s going to take a very skilled IT Pro to convert an SMB to using Sharepoint Online instead of Word documents for policies and procedures, Wunderlist or Office 365 Planner instead of Tasks, Slack or Yammer instead of group emails.

Are IT Pros up for the challenge? Do they have the knowledge of (and heart for) the business side of the business and corporate change management (cultural, not ITIL)? Can they convince an SMB CEO to fundamentally change the way that things have always been done, in order to (hopefully) improve productivity and give them an edge over their competitors? By the way, you’re more than welcome to apply that paragraph to any aspect of SMB life, not just Cloud computing opportunities.

Should they have to?

Yes, it’s a fundamental part of the sales role to understand the business benefits of a technology solution. But to accept and implement a change of ‘how things are done around here’, a CEO needs to see more than just a list of business benefits.

They have to want to change.

And many don’t.

I’ve also talked about Innovation as a Habit before – pushing past innovation as a big scary thing and adopting regular small changes instead. Yet it’s still hard to convince most SMBs that if they want different results, they need to start doing things differently. Frustratingly, they have a great ability to be agile if they want to be. It’s much easier to turn around a 10 seat tug boat than it is to turn around a 2,000 seat Enterprise cruise ship (or should I say, starship?).

A lot of tech chatter in my world is focussed on Startups. As a 12yr old business, I ignored it. I was wrong. If you want to shift your world, you have to think like a Startup.

So, I’m calling on all the SMB innovators …. The small businesses who are prepared to think and act differently, not because they are starting up but because they are a long way away from being a startup. Where are the strong leaders who are prepared to lead their SMB through some procedural and cultural change? Who’s no longer prepared to accept “the way things have always been done around here”?

It’s not the IT Pro’s responsibility to convince you to change your organisation. It’s their responsibility to advise you on the options & tools you have available to effect that change.

Because it’s not the technology that counts …. It’s whether you’re prepared to use it.

-SCuffy

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