In this first of a series of interviews with leading experts Business Talk asks Glenn Woolaghan, SMB and Distribution Director for Microsoft UK, some searching questions that are relevant to small and medium sized businesses.
What are the key trends in IT that are going to make a different to the average SMB over the next few years?
The biggest IT trend making a difference to the average SMB is Cloud Computing; a recent Microsoft survey of over 500 UK SMBs reported that 50% viewed it as a priority for their business moving forward and 50% planned to migrate at least half of their line of business applications to the Cloud in the next two years. This suggest that the early adopter wave has already passed and the provision of managed, cloud-based IT services is now in the mainstream.
This is, we believe, due to the fact that increased mobility and flexible working is a growing trend within UK SMBs; 71% of those surveyed said that they required technology that would enable their staff to work anywhere, at any time.
How can technology help to level the playing field between big business and smaller companies?
Small business can now buy technology as a service, rather than having to invest in their own complex technology infrastructures. This is a huge change and means that even the smallest of organisations have access to the same technology that, in the past, was only used by larger businesses.
Moreover, it is not only technology, but more specifically, keeping up-to-date technology that is helping smaller businesses. According to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group,
tech-savvy and especially cloud-savvy – SMBs increase revenues faster than technology laggards. The study found the high-performing SMBs stayed ahead of the mainstream IT adoption, riding new waves of advancement to improve efficiency, connect with new Customers and Markets, and compete with much larger players.
How would you advise an SMB to go about reviewing the effectiveness of their IT systems?
SMB owners are often too busy running their business to concentrate on planning, defining, sourcing and support IT systems, and yet IT can be an important factor in driving efficiencies and supporting growth plans. It is important that these business owners are aware of the consequences of operating inefficient or out of date technology, and how it can have implications in the long term.
That’s where we can help, Microsoft has a network of over 30,000 partners in the UK, many of which specialise in helping SMBs with their IT needs. For any SMB looking to review their IT systems, we would recommend connecting with one of these experienced partners. Additionally, by joining our Customer Forum at www.yammer.com/talkingbusiness, where they can ask questions and receive tips and advice from other members and skilled Microsoft professionals.
What are the big technology vendors doing to ease the transition to Cloud services?
The big technology vendors are focused on security, ensuring that the correct processes are in place to secure business data. We know this is a big concern of SMBs, but one that our Customers can feel very confident about.
At Microsoft, the security of Users’ data is at the centre of what we do; our built-in security features are a result of over a decade of providing and protecting online services, and we make sure that we provide flexible security settings that enable Customers to have control over their information. Customers own and retain all rights to their data in Office 365 and we enable them to enjoy all the benefits of remote collaboration, whilst giving them the ability to control information sharing.