SME solutions
    11 February 2019

    James Francis

    Why SMEs should start going digital

    Money is tight. Times are tough. The old ways are still reliable. These are the reasons why many South African SMEs are still holding off on using more digital services.  

    Money is tight. Times are tough. The old ways are still reliable. These are the reasons why many South African SMEs are still holding off on using more digital services.

    Local companies are certainly making their move towards digital business solutions, many through cloud services. Those who provide support for online suites such as Office365 have reported that 2018 was a bumper year and 2019 is set to maintain the momentum.

    Yet more than half of local companies are still not using any cloud services and almost 40% don’t plan to. The vast majority of these are small businesses, which hold off for the reasons mentioned above. Yet among those that made the move, half reported major efficiency improvements and more than a third said they now have very reliable business continuity, according to a report from Xero.

    The digital benefits

    Some might feel they have no reason to go this digital yet, but that is not true. The advantages of digital systems are fast overshadowing the status quo. Here are several examples of popular digital services and how they apply:

    • Online email and calendars

    There is something to be said for the comfort of habits. Once we find something that we feel works, we are very reluctant to change. This is the only plausible explanation why more businesses are not using online email services such as Office365 and G Suite. Aren’t they tired of painful backups, losing emails, useless searches and not being sure where or if they replied to an email? Cloud-based email is accessible on any device with a modern browser or the relevant apps. This includes calendars, as well as powerful collaboration channels such as project chat areas. Since you pay per user, managing costs are easy - and these services are very inexpensive as is.

    • Online content creation

    Desktop word processors are no longer where the action is. Today it is very easy and fast to write a document online, then share it with others to collaborate or download to share with contacts. This functionality includes spreadsheets and creating presentations. But perhaps the best reason to move to an online word processor is that the documents are stored in a central place where those with the right permissions can reach it. Ever been in a meeting and not have a crucial document in front of you? If it’s stored in a digital cloud service, you can quickly call it up. Even if your office machine stops working, you wouldn’t lose any work. Nor does this come at a big cost, in fact, online word processing suites are often included in the previously-mentioned email suites.

    • Backup and file storage

    The previous digital service will keep many of your documents safe. But every business has a lot of extra data that it should store safely: customer records, captured receipts, contact lists and many other files that, if you lost them, could really damage a business. These can be backed up on a hard drive, but then what? How will you search that archive? Do you have time to manage all those drives to know what is where? And what if the drives themselves are damaged or lost? Online digital backup services from Vodacom are very affordable and automated ways to keep your business data secure.

    • Security

    A major fear around digital services is security: what if someone hacks you? Well, the bad news is that if you have computers and are connected to the Internet, you are hackable. In fact, if you are an SME, you are a prime target for cybercriminals. They know SMEs are usually underinvested in security, including training for their staff. Before you know it, a ransomware infection locks down all your machines. This is one reason to want online backups as mentioned previously. Digital cloud services are by their nature more secure. They spend a lot more on security and hiring the right people. They stake their reputations on being safe and difficult for attackers to breach. If you have sensitive and critical information you want to keep secure, digital cloud services offer far more without ruining your budget.

    No big spend

    The greatest thing about all the above: it doesn’t cost a lot. You can start small, subscribing to services such as email. Once you get a feel for what you need, you can look at expanding your usage. So spend is always under control - no sudden billing surprises.

    This model has made serious business tools available to small companies. High-level enterprise services from customer relationship managers to artificial intelligence are all on the cards once a business starts exploring its digital options.

    2019 is set to be another strong year for cloud services. But the momentum isn’t coming from large companies anymore. This time SMEs are starting to turn on to the potential of digital business services. Don’t be left behind!


    James Francis