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26 Feb 2019

Why innovation should be the weapon of choice for SMBs

Jacques van Wyk Chief Executive Officer at Ricoh SA
Corporate

It’s a complicated time for SMBs, isn’t it? Regulations, economic shifts and technological developments mean they are navigating through a constantly shifting landscape. With smaller teams and budgets, SMBs rarely have the capability to compete with their larger, corporate competitors.

Today’s business environment moves swiftly and is merciless. But I fear that many SMBs are taking too long to assess and react to these changes. In doing so, they risk ceding control of their future. They need to move quickly and intelligently in order to keep up with changing customer and market demands.

Here at Ricoh South Africa, we aim to help SMB leaders overcome this paralysis by explaining to them what they need to do to take control of these changes.

Changing environments

We surveyed 3,300 SMB leaders from across 23 countries and found that a quarter (24%) expect to be selling entirely different products and services in the next five years.

With heightened customer demands dictating the direction of change, 59% of SMB leaders claim innovation is now a top priority. What’s more, tech is seen to play a vital role in the innovation process, with 45% planning to use data driven insights to help shape their product set. But concerns still exist. More than half (59%) are calling for access to better workplace technologies and 39% identify complex regulation as a key challenge.

Getting the tech right

So, where do SMBs go from here? The key thing to remember is that efficiency and technology need to go hand-in-hand.

How an SMB innovates depends entirely on its context. It could focus on the inner workings and processes that deliver a service to clients, or on creating a whole new product or service line. There’s no right or wrong way to innovate. What’s important is that a business is willing to look for and make changes. Once SMBs have a clearer picture of what innovation really means for them, they can chart their course towards the future.

In addition to constantly reviewing processes, businesses should review how technology serves them as they grow. For example, as remote working becomes more popular and prevalent, do your staff have the tools needed to work easily in teams across different locations? The same can be said for taking advantage of technology that enables the business to foster the full potential of talented individuals. The more SMBs empower employees to innovate, the more scope there is to grow and thrive.

Technology will support future sustainability

Technological advancements are driving fundamental change across a wide range of sectors. Leaders are telling us that increasing the quality of their products is key, but so is lowering costs and accelerating time to market.

So, when taking the time to reassess their offering it’s essential that SMBs carefully consider how their organisation can work in more effective ways to strike the right balance. If they tackle this right, they can gain an edge on the competition.

The next step for SMB leaders should be to investigate the benefits of smarter workplace technology, reshape their processes to improve agility and empower their employees to innovate. This is the only way ambitious SMBs can be sure they’re ready to meet the rapidly changing demands of customers in the digital age.

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