Digital transformation is essential for businesses of any size to stay relevant and competitive in today’s market. Yet for a small business with a limited budget, it could sound like an intimidating undertaking.
However, you simply can’t ignore the benefits of using the right technologies in your business. It’ll help you improve efficiency, lower costs, increase productivity, improve customer experience, and ultimately, boost profits.
In fact, 42% of SMBs now consider digital transformation a core component of their organizational strategy. Digital leaders are doubling the performance of digital laggards.
There’s a lot of buzz around the term digital transformation (DX). As a small business, you may wonder if it’s something you need to pay attention to.
It sounds like a fancy gimmick for large corporations with big IT budgets.
However, no small business can afford to ignore digital transformation. Don’t sweep it under the rug. You’ll likely miss out on opportunities that will set your business up for success for years to come.
Research conducted by Bain & Company revealed that digital leaders more than double the performance of digital laggards in their industries. Profitability follows the same pattern – 83% of the leaders increased their margins over the same period while less than half of the laggards did so.
At frevvo, we LOVE Cloud. Sure, we sell more and more cloud-based solutions to our customers many of whom are themselves small businesses. But so are we! And, we use many cloud services to lower costs and accelerate our own business. We love not having to worry about infrastructure, mobile access, automatic upgrades etc. Here are some cloud services we use today:
frevvo Live Forms: A no-brainer for us. We absolutely eat our own dog food. Our everyday approvals are automated using our own product – everything from Expense Reports to Leave Approvals to Sales Orders to Training Registrations to you name it. We see firsthand how much more efficient we are as a result and we’re even more excited to bring that efficiency to customers.
Email & Calendar: This is a no-brainer and no SMB has any business operating their own email. We use GMail and Google Calendar on our own domain. It’s easy and low cost, well supported and reliable. It’s super easy to quickly find relevant emails. We also like several of the plugins that you can add into GMail.
Infrastructure: As a Cloud provider, this is obviously a key service for us. We use Amazon Web Services (AWS). EC2 for compute, S3 for storage and RDS for the database. AWS is amazing. Costs keep going down, it’s incredibly reliable and they keep adding useful new stuff.
Sales CRM: We use SFDC (salesforce.com). SFDC has its problems for sure and it’s not cheap (costs can rise quickly). But, this is such a key function that it’s not where you want to compromise. We also like the App Exchange and the fact that so many other cloud services integrate with SFDC.
Marketing: We use Marketo. We’re relatively new to it so not a whole lot of experience. We’ve found that it integrates really well with SFDC which was a huge plus. As we automate more things, we’re expecting it to save us time and become more efficient. Not sure about their GMail plugin yet.
Billing: Freshbooks is working brilliantly for us. We don’t have to worry about credit cards and PCI compliance, it’s drop dead simple to use, works overseas (we have customers all over the world) and it’s very affordable. We’ve also integrated frevvo forms/workflows using their API so billing is automated as much as possible.
Customer Support: We’re deciding between Zendesk and desk.com. Both cloud services. Again, integration with SFDC is critical for us. Of course, a nice interface that’s usable by customers is also a key consideration. We’ll see where we end up but a cloud-based service here is inevitable.
Accounting: Quickbooks is a no-brainer. I think it costs us around $50 or $75 per month for a full-fledged accounting system that meets our needs. We also like the fact that it can be integrated with SFDC though we haven’t reached that point yet.
Web Analytics: Google Analytics is free, extremely detailed and well supported. It’s an amazing product and impossible to beat the cost. Encrypting the search keyword sucks but that’s been discussed at length elsewhere.
Online Documents: We need to share documents too and we’ve been very happy with Google Drive for that – it’s by far the cheapest choice and very convenient for sharing internal documents for quick and easy collaboration. Much nicer than emailing Excel/Word around.
Office 365: It’s just a reality of the world we live in. You have to deal with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. And, in some ways, they are better than the alternatives e.g. Track Changes. Office 365 is also amazingly affordable. We can’t complain.
Online Meetings / Webinars: We extensively use GoToMeeting for online meetings and GoToWebinar for webinars. Easy to use, inexpensive and [usually] quite reliable. Even though we’re small we’re distributed across multiple locations on 3 continents so sharing screens, built-in audio and video conferencing are essential. GTM works well. Of course, we also use Skype, IM (GTalk, MSN …) and the host of other chat tools out there.
Email Marketing: We still use Constant Contact though, with Marketo being implemented, it may become redundant. Still, over the years, we’ve been a happy customer. It’s incredibly affordable and has been reliable for us.
Phone System: Skype’s very popular, of course and they offer inexpensive Internet calling. But, it’s simply not good enough to be considered “a landline”. We currently use VOIP services from 8×8 for our phone and voicemail. It’s not dirt cheap but it’s not much money either and it’s been 100% reliable for us.
Video: We’ve used Powtoon to create a few videos. It’s not clear how long we’ll continue. Yes, it’s inexpensive but it’s still a pain to create these videos and it’s very very limited in what you can do. Professionally made videos cost 10-20X as much each but may still be worth the money.
I’m guessing we might even use a few more but these 15 services have been really helpful over the years. I’m sure your business benefits from many cloud services too.
Small businesses are at the tipping point of broad-based cloud adoption. This from a new research report from Intuit that shows how big an opportunity this is for developers and cloud solution providers.
The Cloud-Powered Small Business
Currently 37% of United States small businesses are adapted to the cloud, but an anticipated 78% will be fully cloud operational by 2020. Given the sheer size of this market, it’s a huge opportunity.
The center of the small business cloud is financial management
SMB owners spend 4 hours a day online running their business. What are they doing? 65% conduct back-office work like book-keeping and accounting, 65% generate invoices and accept payments, 58% are managing customer relationships and 48% are communicating with employees and partners.
SMBs are enthusiastically embracing mobile
Nearly half (43%) of SMB owners use a smartphone as the primary device to run their business and the vast majority of them use multiple devices.
And, they’re willing to spend
SMBs already spend $630/year on average on software solutions and 85% of SMB executives are willing to invest more in software solutions over the next 5 years with a significant number (27%) looking to simplify day-to-day operations.
Automate routine day-to-day approvals and streamline operations