When people talk about ‘digital disruption’, they tend to focus on disruptive opportunities for start-ups, but SMEs should also be thinking about what a wave of unprecedented technology change could mean for their companies in the future.
Smaller businesses are as exposed to the risks and opportunities of new technology as larger companies – if not more. Savvy small business owners should thus be looking at their own markets to anticipate how technology will change their operations and the ways their customers behave in the years to come.
Disruption occurs when a new player comes into an established market with an innovative way of doing things that changes the game for everyone else – usually driven by clever use of technology. For example, the entertainment industry was disrupted when music and movies turned into digital products (downloads) and then into services (streaming).
This trend has already had a major impact on many smaller businesses – for example, family-owned bookshops and video rental stores have needed to create new opportunities for themselves. Overall, digital technology creates some wonderful new ways for Small & Medium Businesses to reduce costs, reach new markets and grow revenues.
Here are some ideas about how Small & Medium Businesses can use disruptive technology:
1. Fintech revolution – new solutions for small companies
Financial technology (fintech) companies use technology to make financial services more efficient. For example, companies like Sage Pay make it easier and more affordable for Small & Medium Businesses to transact securely online. This, in turn, means that it is simpler and more convenient for small businesses to trade nationally and internationally.
2. Entrepreneurial opportunities built on other organisations’ platforms
One exciting trend is the way that companies like Uber and Airbnb help people to create new businesses opportunities for themselves, often with little investment than some of assets that they already own.
For example, you can become a driver for a ride-hailing company or rent out a spare room in your house via the Internet. If you’re pursuing another dream business idea, this can help you bring some revenues in while you are still busy building your company. It can also become a business in its own right.
The platform companies do the marketing, provide the website and transactional system, vet customers and suppliers, and connect entrepreneurs with people who need their services. The barriers to entry are quite low and the profits can be attractive.
3. Low-cost, high-impact technology
Cloud (online) applications make software like accounting systems, CRM packages and payroll solutions more affordable to Small & Medium Businesses. Essentially, they turn what used to be a large upfront capital cost into a small monthly expense and give smaller businesses access to secure, world-class software.
But the cloud also makes it faster to put great technology in place for your business and gives you more flexibility to add users and functionality as your business grows. Cloud computing allows you to work anytime and anywhere – just so long as you have an Internet connection and a device with a modern web browser. It also promotes collaboration.
4. Ways to shave expenses
In a tight economy, Small & Medium Business owners welcome any way to reduce costs without compromising on quality and service. Many technology services allow them to meet this goal. For example, fintech can make it cheaper to take and process payments, ride-hailing services are an affordable alternative to taxis, and even accommodation sharing sites have more affordable properties that are suitable for business travel.
5. Driving down marketing budgets while keeping the personal touch
Social media and search are changing the ways that big brands do their marketing, and entrepreneurs are also starting to catch on. Twitter, Facebook, Google and other online services offer a range of affordable and even free ways to promote your goods and services. They also offer you easy-to-use analytics tools so that you can track your performance.
We’ve seen many small businesses, such as restaurants use Instagram to show their delicious dishes to potential customers. A DIY store can shoot some simple videos with a digital camera or even a smartphone to show people how to install a shelf. The beauty of this is that you’ll get instant feedback and find new ways to create customer relationships by interacting with people online
In a time of seismic technological change and digital invention, our smart people are using the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting. Our research teams are working on making concepts like the Internet of Things, machine learning, blockchain and data sciences into a reality for African businesses, accountants and partners.
Small & Medium Businesses that see these technologies as an opportunity to create new services, markets and processes will position themselves for strong growth in the future.
* Anton van Heerden, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director, Sage South & Southern Africa
Mobile is the new branch
Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month
Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.
MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.
“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.
“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”
She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.
“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history.
“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”
The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.
“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel.
“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.
From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”
Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses
With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.
Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.
Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.
On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.
A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.
“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.
To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:
- Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
- Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
- Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
- Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
- Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.