After you’ve worked in technology for a while, you discover that all those jokes about buzzword bingo are based on reality. For those of us who work with words, translation of tech jargon into plain English is something we deal with almost every day.
One of my least favorite buzzwords is future-proof. Fortunately, the Cisco branding folks don’t like it either, and according to the style guide, we’re not supposed to use it. Instead we should say “compatible with future versions.” However, you often see the term used in a more general way that implies you can solve all the impending problems in the universe if you buy a product that is future-proof.
I, along with pretty much every small business owner I’ve ever met, take wild claims like that with a tiny grain of salt.
Let’s face it, a global pandemic wasn’t on the radar of most small businesses. Although nothing — no matter how “future-proof” — can truly prepare you for the great unknown, many of the small businesses that have embraced technology are doing okay.
Technology can improve resiliency
When it comes to resiliency, businesses that automate their business processes have an advantage. It makes sense when you think about it. If you’re a doctor who runs a small medical practice that’s already implemented telehealth appointments using Webex, it’s easier to simply add on to that technology than it is to set up and learn everything from scratch during a crisis.
Because the people in the office already learned how to conduct a videoconference with a patient when it wasn’t an emergency, they’re better able to adapt when something like a pandemic happens and no one wants to visit a clinic in person. If staff members already know how to meet patients virtually, they don’t have to suddenly scramble to figure out a bunch of new technology.
Digital maturity is a term that describes how prepared a business is to adapt to using digital technology. Companies digitally transform when they move from manual processes to digital ones. Although being farther along the digital maturity scale isn’t a guarantee of success, if you’ve taken steps like implementing cloud-delivered security and easily expandable wireless networking, it can give you a competitive advantage. Small businesses that are still hand-writing receipts and stuffing documents in rows of dusty file cabinets are almost inevitably destined to be left behind those businesses that are digitally mature.
How mature is your company?
Cisco commissioned IDC to assess the state of small businesses’ digital transformation and the results of the 2020 Small Business Digital Maturity Study are telling. According to the report, because of the pandemic, 70% of the small businesses surveyed accelerated their move to digital, but only 24% are in the most advanced stages of digital transformation.
A whopping 93% of respondents said that COVID-19 has made them more reliant on technology. And in the next 18 months, the top three technology investments they planned to make were cloud solutions, infrastructure hardware and software, and security.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in technology to digitally transform your business. More solutions exist now than ever before to automate processes. The key is to set up a technology roadmap that’s aligned with the goals you have for your small business. Where can technology help you streamline processes? How can it give you a competitive advantage?
Our Cisco Designed portfolio of products includes cloud-based solutions to solve the five biggest IT challenges small businesses face. Of course, it’s better to go through your goals and evaluate where technology can help when you’re not under the gun. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.
No revenue, no business
During the pandemic with their revenue and oftentimes their entire business in danger, many small businesses had to adjust quickly.
The Cisco Customer stories pages are filled with inspiring examples of business resiliency that were possible thanks to technology. For example in Italy, Del Brenta, a leader in Italian-made heels, wedges, and platforms for the world’s biggest brands was already using Webex, so when the lockdown happened, the company was able to maintain business continuity.
Stefano Bezzon, Head of Innovation at Del Brenta says, “When we began using Cisco Webex in 2017, we never imagined the role it would play in assuring business continuity [in 2020]. Even during one of the worst crises imaginable, we were able to operate. Our employees were working from home, yet for our customers the transition was invisible.”
Another example is Karameller, a candy boutique in Vancouver. When the retail storefront was forced to shutter during the pandemic, their primary source of income dried up. The company’s website had always been an afterthought, but because the site was built the right way with the right technologies, everything was in place to transition to online sales virtually overnight. The size of the average online order was three times larger than in-store purchases and helped the company not only stay in business but also keep customers happy. As owner, Louise Schonberg points out, “When everything changes overnight, little things that bring comfort or joy become even more important.”
Although being more digitally mature isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s clear that the smart use of technology can help businesses weather difficult times.
You don’t have to be a big business to access great technology
The size of your business shouldn’t limit the technology you can use, which is why Cisco has increased our focus on helping small businesses. Even the smallest businesses can benefit from the same enterprise-grade technology that’s used by the largest companies and governments all over the world. Our Cisco Designed portfolio of simple, secure solutions is curated and priced to help small businesses connect and collaborate securely.
This blog was originally written by Susan Daffron for Cisco Blogs.