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14 August, 2020

Emerging Tech Empowering the SMB Workforce

Ashish Sikka

A shift is being observed in the workplace dynamics around the world. More so involving Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) in India that are realizing the importance of adopting technologies to improve productivity. With employees working from home and businesses exploring emerging digital solutions for everyday problems, this is the time to take a look at what is working, what is not, and how businesses can use technological advancement to their favour.

We know this first-hand because Lenovo is at the forefront of these digitization attempts by SMBs across sectors such as healthcare, finance, information technology and e-commerce. Current pandemic has accelerated digital adoption by SMBs and would provide long term benefits to both organisations & employees. 

How Tech Will Help SMBs?

A sign of active tech adoption is the willingness to experiment. We find ourselves in a situation where we must stay relevant & productive. Indian SMBs are one of the most enterprising in the world & they are using this opportunity to not only survive but, in some cases, thrive as well. 

For example, AI-powered network support systems have been widely utilized by businesses that were forced to go virtual when the Covid-19 pandemic broke in March this year. Today, small IT companies and tech startups use remote monitoring systems to keep track of their servers and data centres.

All in-person meetings have moved online, thanks to video conferencing apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. On a long term basis, this would allow SMBs to improve their geographical business presence across various locations, improve employment opportunities beyond tier 1 cities & help reduce the cost for SMBs in the form of real estate & travel. 

Moreover, digital financial solutions are available for professionals to facilitate money transactions while maintaining social distancing. Businesses that were sceptical about using tools connected to the Internet now find them as boons. 

What are the Challenges?

I feel that one of the deepest lows of remote working is disruption. When an SMB with a strength of 50+ goes fully virtual, productivity takes a hit. According to a 2019 global study on SMB employee and device buying experience by market research firm Forrester, this fall in productivity may be due to a lack of correct devices or their familiarity. More than 80% of productive employees are satisfied with their experience using work devices, which signals why productivity may fall when they use personal devices like laptops and mice for longer periods. The current SMB technology, in general, is not sufficient for employees to work efficiently from their homes. This is both a technological & cultural challenge for SMBs. To overcome both SMBs have been adopting technology which helps to increase employee productivity while keeping employee morale high. 

At Lenovo, we saw a huge demand for devices from remote areas where the concept of the virtual workplace is both relatively new and marred with limitations. To support professionals working from home in these places, we provided laptop delivery and remote tech support offerings even during the lockdown. We have also introduced new offerings which help SMBs get 24/7 technical support as employees are now working from home. Our technology solutions allow our customers to focus on their core business.

Just having the basics is also not enough. Enterprise videoconferencing apps and robust Internet connections must be provided to ensure higher productivity and minimum disruption. Also as businesses go more digital they need to focus on security and data protection. 

How Existing Hardware and Software Can Help?

The challenges in these vertices can be mitigated by active involvement from tech providers. Lenovo, in its part, supported SMBs with hardware, financial, and security solutions. When it comes to hardware, ThinkBook Series laptops are specially designed for the SMBs keeping the young workforce in mind, for improving efficiency and focus. Another important aspect is security, and our ThinkShield security portfolio helps organizations secure their IT infrastructure. 

A serious challenge faced by SMBs specifically concerns financing the shift to remote and digital. Lenovo Financial Services provides various financing options to enable SMBs to invest in their growth, without the burden of CapEx. While everyone is suddenly looking at adopting tech, one important factor is ability and knowledge to choose the best from amongst the plethora of choices – here we launched PC Pal which helps both home and SMB users to choose a laptop to suit their specific requirements.

There is also a need for organizations to extract better insights from their workforce. This can be done through surveys and employee feedback systems. In that regard, the Forrester report provides some excellent pointers to improve employee efficiency and experience. These include understanding the daily work journeys of employees and measuring their experience. Proven tools such as NPS and ESI can be used to do this effectively, the results of which can help businesses devise a better workplace strategy. 

Hold on to the insights extracted from such an exercise and then work with trusted device partners to execute them. It further emphasizes on choosing the right device vendors who are both flexible and capable of meeting your requirements.

The Bottom Line

I feel there is an overall positive dependence and confidence of SMBs in tech. Businesses are not afraid to experiment with tech if it means improving workflow, minimizing disruption, and reducing costs. Vegetable wholesalers using mobile wallets for payments and restaurateurs using app-based inspection tools to maintain safety standards are examples that validate the growing influence of technology. At this pace, soon, we can expect a great upward curve for Indian businesses utilising advanced technology and tools in their routine.