It can be a Catch-22 on whether economic, technological and management trends are good for small business or not. They certainly require an investment in time and money to keep abreast of the never-ending developments. However as a business coach I am noticing that to ignore them is to provide your competitors with the opportunity to grow their businesses at your expense.
If there is one technological trend that should command your attention for its ability to help you to respond to your business environment it is cloud computing.
Cloud computing refers to services and applications that are web-based, hosted and accessed through the Internet or the ''cloud''.
There are typically three parts to the cloud:
The most significant benefit of utilising cloud computing is that small business owners can remotely manage information and access services and programs from anywhere with an internet connection. Imagine being able to effectively manage customer relationships, human resources and financial programs no matter where you happen to be.
During our business coaching assignments we are looking at smart ways to save costs and cloud computing means that you can save on hardware and software expenses and maintenance costs as all information is held on a remote server. Another benefit is that you always have access to the latest version with the best tools and resources technology has to offer.
Flexibility and remote access create a more manageable and versatile work environment. Relieving staff of the 'chained to the desk' work mentality means both you and your team have access to the information they need in order to help your business realise its vision.
Disaster recovery and backup capabilities are seamlessly built into the cloud, protecting your data from being lost permanently by having it automatically and regularly backed up and stored at secure premises elsewhere in the world.
The cloud can facilitate collaboration and minimises the margin for error as people are no longer relying on the staple 'cut and paste' method of moving data between spreadsheets. Instead review and revise spreadsheets, documents, presentations, in fact just about any type of file, from anywhere in the world, leaving a clear audit trail for others to know what has been changed and why.
Analysts say that cloud computing has already made its way into many businesses in one-way or another and during my business coaching reviews I am seeing ample evidence of this. The best method is a slow and calculated approach, with safety and security as your number one consideration. Don't wait for your competitors to leap ahead.