Small-to-medium business (SMB) executives spend many hours deliberating on which technologies to invest in next. Picking any go-forward technology ultimately leads to implementing the infrastructure necessary to take on other future technologies. There's a lot riding on that decision.
The bad news: There are more emerging and next-generation technologies than ever. The list of options seems to grow daily. And the combinations of these technologies are quickly growing exponentially.
The good news: Cloud technology drives SMBs into the future with a solid foundation to support their current and future business plans.
Any SMB can easily become overwhelmed when deciding on go-forward platforms. Previously, technology evolved serially, moving from mainframe to midrange computers, and then to the PC revolution. That led to LANs and WANs, followed by the internet and now the cloud.
But now we're seeing technology deployment in parallel: blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT, virtual assistants or chatbots, and different kinds of augmented and virtual reality. Solutions with these individual technologies are often combined in multiple combinations to accomplish new and complex problems often previously unsolvable. This new normal brings many more opportunities to SMBs for success, segmentation and survival.
Consider this real use case: An IoT sensor can be employed to retrieve container data, which is then promulgated through a blockchain to communicate with the relevant supply chain and subsequently inform a chatbot that is answering a customer's AI-driven inventory query.
However, while SMBs look to invest in their futures, they still need to pay attention to their current investments. A significant number of existing customers aren't ready — yet — to make the leap to what's next. Those customers still must have their needs met. SMBs need to pick their next technology with their existing solutions in mind, understanding this cardinal rule: all these new technologies are being built and deployed in the cloud.
While leveraging a cloud foundation quickly makes any SMB technology current, getting to the cloud requires a simple set of three steps for success.
Step 1: Conduct a systems’ audit. Determine what technologies are on hand at your SMB, and which should move to the cloud — and which should not. Don’t simply "lift and shift" everything — take only what is valuable and don’t overlook anything. A core cloud infrastructure includes finance, reporting, supply chain management, human capital management, and customer experience management for sales, services and marketing., keeping in mind how new technologies like AI, blockchain and chatbots, are solely built on the underpinnings of cloud technology.
Step 2: Evaluate. Is your business at the turn of the century tech-wise? These SMBs are facing a longer — yet not impossible — road. Imagine the owner of a turn-of-the-century 1999 automobile who wants to add 2020 model-year lane-change warning sensors. The retrofitting required is impractical; the cost of doing so outweighs the value of the car itself. A better and simpler investment to add this technology is to buy a new car. Likewise, some SMBs will need an entire infrastructure overhaul to accommodate modern technology, or they will never be ready for any of the new technologies.
Step 3: Do research. Learn what technologies the future requires. What's bleeding edge today is often leading edge tomorrow. Be ready to implement the appropriate technology accordingly. When internal and external customers start to ask for next-gen technologies, it's critical to be ready rapidly. In most cases, it is best to be ready for current and future technologies before the requests are received.
SMBs have little room for technology errors. Making the wrong choice can doom a business. And many SMBs just don't have the resources or the expertise necessary to come to a decision. They aren't sure what needs to be done, and they become paralyzed knowing they can't afford to take a risk.
This means it becomes very important to engage often with your trusted partners, such as a solution provider, who aid SMBs with the decision-making process by drawing on their experiences with successful cloud implementations. Having that solid, core business foundation in the cloud satisfies a basic requirement for deploying other technologies like AI, blockchain, and IoT.
Acceptance is the best defense against this perpetual cycle of anxiety. Accept the fact that all these new technologies are coming -- some are here and quickly becoming mainstream while others are not far behind and still more are in the proverbial startup garage. Once unleashed, technology is never put back in its box which highlights why SMBs need to enthusiastically embrace this reality by getting their core business systems into the cloud.
Once in the cloud they'll not only gain a platform to take advantage of these new technologies that are available today, and will be arriving tomorrow, but also all the other advantages of being in the cloud. These benefits cover the gamut, across finance and all operations.
Which delivers a sure-fire way to build a successful technology roadmap for any SMB.