Characterized as a game-changing technology, cloud computing can accelerate a business' digital transformation and, at the same time, level the playing field between small companies and major corporations. And while most entrepreneurs have heard the message, not all of them take the news as gospel. In fact, less than half of the businesses surveyed use cloud-based technology.
Bill.com, the cloud-based business payments network, and SurveyMonkey recently polled current and aspiring business owners and found that 78 percent of small business owners are familiar with the cloud and that 77 percent of them believe the cloud can improve their operations.
Apparently that faith only goes so far. Of the small businesses surveyed, only 46 percent actually use the cloud. That's some cognitive dissonance, right there.
Businesses are stymied by many factors; factors that prevent small businesses from adopting new technologies that would help them compete in an increasingly digital marketplace. Cost is a big concern (59 percent), along with security (45 percent).
Other entrepreneurs simply struggle with learning how to use new technologies (40 percent) or with following new protocols (20 percent). Fifteen percent of respondents cited employee training as a barrier to adoption, while 11 percent admitted they're reluctant to incorporate new tech into their work environments.
Whatever their reasons for avoiding cloud computing and other new technologies, small business owners risk ending up on the wrong side of the digital divide. Avoiding technology imperils their growth according to René Lacerte, Bill.com's founder and CEO.
Change can be tough, but today's business landscape is tougher on companies that fail to adapt. Below, Lacerte shares his tips for adapting to digital change and for incorporating small business technology into your company's work flow.
Small Business Cloud Tips: Going Digital
1. Listen to Your Business and Your Gut
"Listen to the needs of the business. Balance what your gut tells you with what your employees, vendors, and customers say," said Lacerte.
There's no point in embarking on your digital transformation journey if you don't have a direction in mind. Assess your requirements and ambitions and let them be your guide.
2. Assess, Identify, and Explore Your Options
"Examine the various parts of your business and identify the specific areas where you could use help," Lacerte said.
Then, look for inspiration beyond your own organization. "When researching what small business technology's best for your specific business, start by looking at companies that are similar to yours. What do they say about the technology solutions they use? Look at the tech companies you already do business with and see what recommendations or apps they have that might already connect to your current solutions," he added.
3. Communicate and Promote Your Tech Plan
Be open with your team and be consistent about your plans. This is essential; otherwise any effort to modernize your business in 2016 will end up festering in a pile of broken New Year's resolutions.
"Change can be hard at first. Make sure you take the time to explain to your team why transitioning to a digital format or work flow is important to them, and to the business as a whole," advised Lacerte.
Gradually introducing those changes is also crucial. "Implement one change at a time, and give yourself and your team the time to incorporate the change into their habits," he said. Once you establish that comfort with (or appetite for) change, your business can better handle whatever challenges pop up.
4. Innovate Continuously
"Entrepreneurship is about innovation, and that innovation shouldn't stop at the front door," said Lacerte. Your devices, software, and IT systems should be up to the task of turning your ideas into reality.
"The systems that underlie your business also require innovation as you grow and adopt new technologies. Constantly evaluate those systems to make sure that your business takes full advantage of the latest advances in small businesses technology," he said.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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