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Agility keeps SMMEs alive

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The ability to innovate quickly and be disruptive and dynamic in the market is an advantage that small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) have over their larger counterparts.
So claims Dr Raj Naidoo, director at Enermatics Energy, an established provider of smart metering technology and reseller of power to end users.

Dr Naidoo agrees with the findings of research by Gartner and believes the “enterprise elephants” are stagnating and rigid, and struggle to keep up with the agility of smaller businesses. “This is why SMMEs actually have an opportunity to lead in driving innovation. I see big data as a huge enabler for this.”

The head of Enermatics Energy feels that the key in any organisation is leadership and company culture. Businesses today can either foster a culture of innovation through leadership or a culture of red tape, he explains. “Enterprise elephants unfortunately have a stigma with red tape and not being flexible. Innovation can come from any organisation, whether big or small. The key is to create a culture of innovation.”

To illustrate his point Dr Naidoo adds that businesses like Uber and AirBnB, and similar ventures, have transformed their industries. These companies have created new business models or disruptive forces in their industries that use technology to better serve customers

These kind of businesses have identified and successfully adapted to key drivers of change, says Dr Naidoo, including the advent of smartphones, more people connected to the Net, more powerful and cheaper technology, hosted cloud services and increasing signal range of wireless technologies such as LORA.

The fact is that size does matter in the market today, Dr Naidoo continues, and survival he says is about innovation and this is directly related to how a company treats customers.

“To innovate, one needs to clearly understand customers’ pains. Once the pains are understood, solutions can be developed to address those pains. Established companies usually become complacent with their customers. For SMMEs, every small customer is an important customer. To survive, SMMEs have to be flexible enough to adapt their products, services and processes to better serve clients’ needs,” he says.

Traditionally companies would need an IT department to develop innovative solutions, but the provision of hosted cloud services through international providers like IBM and Amazon, SMMEs can leverage the cloud to redefine processes and offer unique value to clients.

The upper hand

In a comparison of the respective situations SMME and enterprises find themselves in, there are several factors that favour the smaller operator says Dr Naidoo. They are generally more flexible, they have smaller teams to manage, ideas flow easier through the organisation and because there are fewer customers to manage, the environment is more conducive to personalised relationships with clients.

However, Dr Naidoo cautions that in as much as now is the opportune time for SMMEs to take leadership in innovation and capitalise on advantages, innovation and disruption can come from any type of organisation. “SMMEs have a natural advantage that comes with their size but enterprises have more resources to enable innovation,” he says.

The relevance of the cloud and Internet of Things is that SMMEs are better positioned to be able to innovate while keeping costs at an acceptable and sustainable level.