It's cloudy out there, but in a good way

Updated: Jul 29 2013, 16:02pm hrs
CloudyIt's cloudy out there, but in a good way
Jyothi Satyanathan

Small and mid-size businesses (SMB) are some of the fastest adopters of IT, as they clearly see the immediate benefits in growing their business and becoming more efficient. IT solutions providers recognise the opportunity in the market to accommodate SMBs in a big way among customers. Today the world is experiencing another sweeping changepowered by big data analytics, mobile, social and cloud. These foundational technology shifts are inspiring forward-thinking leaders from smaller businesses to drive change in how decisions are made, redesign how their teams work, and reassess how to serve the individual consumer.

The explosion of big data provides a vast new natural resource that can transform organisations, helping them build smarter systems that drive economic growth, sustainable development and societal progress. So whats driving this The IT evolution in the SMB space is not only happening rapidly but also surely. As SMBs increasingly embrace technology and incorporate IT in core processes, cloud and in turn data analytics emerge as the major drivers for IT adoption amongst them. As IT solution providers understand the constraints of time and money that SMBs players face and come up with innovative usage based pricing models, more and more SMBs are readily jumping on to the IT bandwagon. With the rise of the ready acceptance of cloud based technologies, big data and analytics technologies are also within the reach of SMBs now. Cloud based analytics can empower small businesses to improve their operations and efficiency by analysing the data surrounding their business while cutting down costs and in turn savings for their customers.

Cloud based technologies have made the transition smooth for SMBs from non-IT to IT-based processes and services. Apart from cloud analytics, cloud services combined with comprehensive security and data protection solution is optimum for SMBs to have an effective data disaster recovery fallback plan. As cloud service offerings allow for more flexibility with business growth, more SMBs seek a cloud platform that can be aligned with their overall business strategy, to investigate insights from generated data from social channels, for seamless management of processes and in turn free up resources that can then concentrate on fostering innovation and business growth over time.

With the evolution of the consumer today, small businesses are under growing pressure to understand the individual consumer and how they want products and services delivered. Even the way companies used to market to their consumers is changing. The

focus has shifted from a segment to marketing products and services to an individual. The growing need of alignment of IT and business priorities to deliver better communication between the business and its technology stakeholders calls for a simplified channels of information sharing. And one should not forget the need for mobile integration capabilities in this age of smartphones. Today the advancement in cloud based technologies enable SMBs to deliver enterprise level availability and security to protect their customer information, intellectual property and most importantly their brand in the cloud.

While security concerns are being answered, the use of cloud technologies is enhancing efficiency manifold as it enables the placing of marketing assets such as digital files of campaigns, videos in the cloud so that all involved parties can create, modify, use and share as needed. Marketing data on the cloud makes it easier for marketing staff to access information anytime and anywhere on the field.

As cloud takes the SMB market by storm, SMBs need to exercise some caution while making the transformation into the cloud especially in regulatory terms. Companies should also put in place security control measures so that access is regulated and also be aware of specific regulatory restrictions and institute proper policies to ensure the business is amenable to such regulations.

There is also a question of choosing between the private and the public cloud service that needs to be considered. SMBs increasingly prefer the private cloud as it allows a company to capitalise on existing investments while increasing productivity and helping them make IT a key enabler of driving growth. Adopting a private cloud service also provides the business with the ability to manage and host the applications internally or externally as they may choose.

The major contribution cloud makes to the SMBs ecosystem is big data analytics. Like larger enterprises, SMBs stand to gain from understanding the importance of big data. Big data can arm small businesses with insights and capabilities by analysing data surrounding their business, creating new ways to operate more efficiently, find new customers and more importantly improve bottom-line results. With data analytics available on the cloud, opportunities once only available to multi-million dollar companies are now available to SMBs to innovate and reap greater benefits.

One cannot ignore that SMBs have long been the engines of driving economic growth. Its this group of entrepreneurial companies that are best positioned to drive innovation.

The writer is director Mid-market & Inside Sales, IBM India/South Asia