In the past few years, the term “agile” has become the catchcry of the small business world. But the ability to adopt flexible ways of working and seize opportunities based on a real-time understanding of your customer is difficult if you rely on outdated forms of technology that aren’t up to this challenge. From using cloud computing to store data to swapping inflexible accounting systems for those that absorb your company’s ebbs and flows, here’s a beginner’s guide to the technology that will allow you embrace agility at every turn.
Few technological advances enable agility like the dawn of “the cloud”. According to a May 2015 Forbes report, 59 per cent of US-based small businesses using cloud services report substantial boosts in productivity, and 82 per cent reveal that switching to cloud computing has significantly reduced operating costs. Cloud-based services such as Rackspace, iCloud and Dropbox for Business make it simple to collaborate with your team members, sync files across multiple devices and access important documents on the go. These platforms also let you scale your storage requirements up and down according to your projects, rather than paying for space you don’t need.
The explosion of analytics software has turned the art of small business marketing on its head. These days, programs such as Google Analytics and Kissmetrics let you create marketing campaigns based on real-time intelligence that spans everything from website traffic, site visits and referral pages to geographical location and preferred browsing devices. Analytics software also lets you use patterns in customer behaviour to make marketing decisions rather than relying on predictions that might not add up. The practice of measuring and quantifying your campaigns can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses faster – which can translate to a higher rate of conversion.
Software as a service
It’s always been important for small businesses to maximise profits while keeping overheads low. Software as a service (SAAS), a software licensing and delivery model that lets businesses scale up their software requirements according to commercial demands rather than invest in expensive platforms, can go a long way toward accomplishing this. For instance, Office 365, Microsoft’s agile answer to its popular Office suite, lets multiple team members access Microsoft programs remotely without the need for a virtual private network (VPN). And Xero, a popular cloud-based software, lets small business owners streamline time-consuming accounting processes by offering online bookkeeping and real-time financial data across any mobile device.
From cloud computing to SAAS, technological developments have made it easier than ever for small business owners to adopt an agile approach. What platforms do you rely on and how have they helped your business grow?
Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor who covers business, technology, arts and culture for publications in Australia and overseas.