It is well-known that most Canadian companies have fewer than 50 employees. The challenge facing the owners of these businesses is two-fold: how do we grow, and, when we do, how do we sustain it?
Added to these challenges are a number of ‘nice to have’ business problems that arise when companies do experience growth. The need to innovate and stay competitive. Balancing a remote workforce with required office space. Talent. Managing data. Meeting customer expectations.
Each of these ‘nice to have’ problems is unique and requires a solution that considers the specific needs of your business. Managing data for a retailer, for example, means something very different than managing data for a manufacturer. But no matter your industry or specific needs, there is a way to overcome these problems, and it’s easier than you think.
Innovation is the word on everyone’s lips these days, and the term is used (almost ad nauseam) to describe how companies are changing their industry’s landscape. But what is innovation? Innovation can be as simple as a company constantly trying and testing new ideas and ways of working. So how do you enable your employees to ideate and share at any time, from anywhere, on every device?
When ideas can strike at any time, your business needs the tools that can share those ideas with the right people, instantly. That’s where collaboration technology can help. Collaboration technologies are the voice, video, and presence solutions that connect your employees to each other and the world. For example, the phone on your desk, the instant message platform you’ve installed, and teamwork applications like Cisco Spark are all collaboration solutions.
Why not forego technology and simply innovate in the office? Well, the reality of today’s business environment is that employees are more geographically dispersed than ever before. It’s difficult for most organizations to get most employees in one place at the same time, let alone every employee, all the time. Collaboration technology makes it easy to bring people and information together simply, securely and efficiently across remote, mobile and diverse workforces.
Digital businesses – which every business will be, eventually – need to be able to support multi-generational workforces. As your business grows, you need to bring in more employees to service customers. Those employees will likely be millennials, who are challenging our perception of how to work and communicate and are constantly reimagining how to use technology. They value flexibility over compensation and expect the technology in their workplace to be as intuitive as their mobile device. Your business needs to cater to different work styles and cultures, or risk losing talent to competitors.
A digital workforce requires nonstop connectivity, rich collaboration to support deeper engagement, and security everywhere. More than this, younger employees expect to communicate quickly and simply with peers over video and voice solutions. Why? Because they’ve already been doing it for years through their personal devices. This is where they are comfortable, and by offering secure, business-quality collaboration solutions you provide flexible communication options to ensure your employees are happy (and productive), you also ensure their communications are protected.
Balancing an increasingly remote workforce with required office space is a common problem as businesses expand. The key is to evaluate your current space and the ways people interact and work within it, then you can make some smart changes for the future. This involves more than updating furniture, lowering cubicle walls, and putting bright colours on the walls (especially if you planning a move to a larger space).
Interactions with customers and partners are constantly evolving. With all these elements coming together, and even more on the way, could you change your workspace to work smarter for your customers? And with more mobile workers, how much space do you even need? If you are moving, embrace your move as an opportunity to rethink how you work, and how your next investments in technology will support your business in the long-term. For example, since you need to take down your aging wireless access points (APs) and reinstall them in your new space, would it make sense to purchase and install Wave 2 APs now to meet the needs of your business as it grows? Future-proofing your IT now means less stress, and cost, in the future.
Consult with an expert – either in your industry or a technology vendor – that can help clarify what technologies will make your office enjoyable for employees, meet the needs of your customers, and fulfill your technology requirements for the foreseeable future. With the right advice you might realize you don’t need as much space as you thought, or that you can reduce monthly expenses while improving your workspace and technology infrastructure.
As more and more devices get connected, companies have the potential to connect to and collect data from every device, piece of equipment, and asset. For growing businesses, the struggle lies in knowing you should be using this data but lacking the ability to actually do it. This is largely because ‘big data’ seems just that – big. It’s too large to wrap your head around. And that’s before you even start to think about applying sensors or providing guest Wi-Fi access.
As your business grows, you will have access to more and more customer data. That data can reveal valuable insights, such as what times the most people walk past your storefront, and influence strategic business decisions, such as when to offer a new promotion. But analytics doesn’t need to be complex. Take our Connected Mobility Experience (CMX) solution for example. CMX leverages the wireless network you already have to track assets, analyze visitor behavior (in your physical space), simplify guest Wi-Fi, and give customers a better experience. One solution, many benefits. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what analytics can do for your business.
Supply chain complexity seems to go hand-in-hand with business growth. When your business is small, organizing your supply chain is usually straightforward. You probably buy from a handful of suppliers, know exactly who your customers are, and what and roughly when those customers will buy. Delivering goods or services to them is, relatively speaking, easy to keep track of.
But as your business grows, the work involved in managing buying, logistics, and servicing customers expands as well. What was once a case of simply noticing you were running low on a specific part and ordering more from the manufacturer is no longer so simple. So what happens now?
The more complex your business becomes, the greater the volume of data you need to process. Staying ahead of demand remains critical to your success, but is more different to monitor as your visibility of operations decreases. You need a solution that lets you stay on top of your supply chain today and tomorrow (and tomorrow’s tomorrow). The key to a future-proofed supply chain is a technology infrastructure that grows with you. Plan ahead and invest in scalable, smart technologies that can handle your workload now and when you have an additional 100 customers to track.
Let us show you a better way to work.
Learn more about our solutions for Canadian businesses at www.cisco.com/ca/smallbusiness