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How SMEs can approach collaboration to keep up with the changes brought on by the pandemic

SME business owners collaborating

SMEs have had to cope with all of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic with less resources – both in their budget and employee numbers. Collaboration can help smaller businesses address these challenges and thrive in difficult circumstances. Three experts offer their advice to SMEs on collaboration.

Julian Hutabarat, Beany Australia GM:

Firstly, many people see the accounting process as something that simply helps you with compliance – but that’s because much of their time is taken up dealing with the drudgery of the process, from collecting the data to entering it and updating it.

But that process can be automated now and it’s taking much of the grunt work out of accounting. This frees up accountants to help a company forecast, project, undertake financial health checks and more. In effect, you’re spending less time on accounting and more on the things that help you grow the business.

For instance, in Australia right now, Sydney is in a protracted lockdown – as a result, State and Federal Government are each offering various stimulus packages, disaster payments to those unable to work and other tax changes to soften the blow for companies of all sizes but particularly SMEs. This is a common issue across the region as the pandemic is stubbornly staying put for the time being.

Now, does your typical SME have the time to keep up with all of these changes? Many of them barely have enough time to send an invoice and are running on a shoestring budget just trying to keep their heads above water.

But they should look to collaborate with an accounting firm which has automated the process of compliance – these firms are proactively chasing payments their clients are entitled to and often at a much lower cost per month than non-automated accounting firms.

From there, these accounting firms are free to more readily undertake financial health checks and be proactive with their clients, as opposed to being perpetually in compliance response mode. Simply put, they have more time to advise clients on the best way to not just help the company survive but thrive once the lockdown eases. So let them do the work.

A key to growth is analysing your finances and forecasting a few years down the track, and that comes down to collaborating on your accounts. Without that, you’re just throwing darts into the wind and hoping to hit a bullseye.

Jim Crook, Senior Director of Marketing, CTERA:

To collaborate effectively and grow, SMEs must prioritise the management of their data; they must ensure it is secure, while enabling users to gain quick access and benefit from the ability to remotely collaborate on files. Global file systems are an increasingly popular way to achieve this.

In a global file system, a ‘gold’ or ‘master’ copy of the data is stored in the cloud storage, and local caching capabilities provide efficient, remote access from home or branch offices as well as individual devices. The entire system, with both local devices and cloud storage, exists within a single global namespace while all features and access are controlled centrally. As a file system, the solution supports file access protocols such as NFS and SMB, although data is often stored as objects in the cloud to reduce costs.

Global file synchronisation provides consistency across all devices in the system, which is critical for ensuring efficient and effective collaboration for a distributed and remote workforce. Many solutions also provide data protection features such as file versioning and Disaster Recovery.

In this way, global file systems enable SMEs to benefit from the many advantages of the cloud, notably scalability, flexible pay-as-you-go pricing, and built-in data resiliency, while increasing performance and lowering costs, providing greater collaboration and flexibility.

There is one hurdle when it comes to public cloud storage however: egress costs. Nevertheless, global file systems can curb these by leveraging intelligent caching algorithms to determine which data is most likely to be needed and caching it on the local device for future access. Additionally, this approach offers the high performance of local storage. Costs are further cut by applying data reduction techniques, which decreases the total capacity required, before data is stored it in the cloud.

The benefits of global file systems do not end here: this architecture in fact also provides SMEs with multi-cloud abilities, enabling them to avoid vendor lock-in commonly enforced by cloud providers. This flexibility is important for SMEs as they expand so they can ensure they can use the most suitable cloud for each new or existing workload.

Enabling secure and rapid access to data and the ability to collaborate on files from any location is critical for the success of SMEs. An effective data management and storage strategy is an essential foundation to allow this growth.

Alexis Andreieff, Senior Regional Vice President – SMB, Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa, Salesforce:

The past 18 months have accelerated a number of innovations from SMB owners to digitise. Salesforce’s annual Small Business Trends report found that 75% of SMBs globally believe shifts they’ve made to business operations over the past year will benefit their business long-term.

For the fifth edition of the Small and Medium Business Trends report, we analysed the responses of more than 2,500 SMB owners and leaders around the world to determine:

• How support from local communities has affected SMBs
• What SMBs are doing to deepen trust with customers and employees
• How technology helps SMBs grow
• What has changed for SMBs over the past year and how that impacts their future

SMBs are pushing forward after more than a year of change. Owners and leaders have guided their businesses through an on-going health crisis, large-scale social change and a volatile economy. While many businesses suffered in the pandemic, others seized entrepreneurial opportunities.

As we see in this year’s report, many SMB leaders have successfully adjusted – and even flourished. In the fifth edition of the Small and Medium Business Trends report, we share a snapshot of SMB leaders’ current perceptions and insights and how these have changed.

  1. Communities and governments step up for SMBs
    Due to pandemic shutdowns, SMBs found themselves even more resource-strapped – all while struggling to maintain revenue streams. Governments and local communities alike stepped up to help. Two-thirds of SMB leaders say community support has been important to their company’s survival.
  2. Customer and employee engagement take priority
    After a period of turmoil, SMBs are looking to deepen trust. To do so, they’re focusing on providing employees with transparent communications and flexibility, while also meeting customer expectations. More than seven in 10 SMBs say their customers expect online transactions, and nearly the same proportion have an e-commerce presence.
  3. SMBs embrace the digital-first world
    In an increasingly unpredictable world, SMB leaders are accelerating their tech investments – seeking technology to help their business survive even the most tumultuous times. More than half of growing SMBs accelerated investments in sales and customer service technology over the past year.
  4. SMBs foresee long-term changes from the pandemic
    Many SMB leaders have rethought their strategies in order to keep their businesses afloat; in doing so, operations became more efficient. SMBs now plan to keep some of those changes permanently. Three-quarters of SMB leaders believe shifts they’ve made to business operations over the past year will benefit them long-term.

Originally Published by Intelligent SME Tech – 15 September 2021