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SMEs mobilise for success

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Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are among the businesses that have
the most to gain by embracing mobile technologies to become more agile and
efficient. This is according to Deon Liebenberg, regional director for
sub-Saharan Africa at Research In Motion (RIM), the company that develops
the BlackBerry solution.

Over the past few weeks, a stream of research reports have confirmed that
SMEs around the world are turning to mobile technologies such as smartphones
to improve the way that they work.
Mobile technology demands a relatively low upfront investment, yet allows a
business with limited resources to vastly improve its efficiency,
productivity, flexibility and responsiveness by freeing people from the
constraints of offices and traditional 9-5 working hours.
New research conducted in Europe by Ipsos MORI and RIM shows how integral
mobile technologies have already become to the day-to-day running of the
average SME in the continent.
The study, which canvassed 900 SME owners in Western Europe, shows that SMEs
are adopting mobile technologies because they underpin a flexible approach
to working and communicating that enables small businesses to work when they
want to.
Responsiveness, particularly to customers, is one of the main reasons that
European SMEs cite for their investments into mobile technologies. SMEs
across Europe recognise that they need to be able to communicate with
business stakeholders and access the information they want, regardless of
where they are.
The majority (two thirds) of respondents indicated that they're on the move
at least twice a week, while 62% of European SME owners indicated that they
had won a piece of business by responding to a customer prospect when they
were out of the office.
About 53% of respondents believe that technology has made setting up a
business easier and cheaper. Many respondents indicated that they're setting
up businesses at home, prioritising investments into mobile technology and
computers over spending money on rented or purchased office space.
We're seeing similar trends emerge in the South African market. A 'Market
Opportunity for Mobile Solutions' study conducted in South Africa by IDC on
behalf of RIM indicates that more half of South African companies of all
sizes have rolled out mobile business solutions to up to 25% of their
workforces.
The research, which canvassed representatives from 350 South African
companies of all sizes, shows that 80% of South African small businesses
already have a mobile solution in place.
Some of the factors that are driving mobile data solutions in South Africa
includes the affordability of data services from the cellular operators, the
maturity of the technology and the simplicity of deployment.
For SMEs, the business benefits of being in touch with clients and other
business stakeholders are perhaps even more important than they are for
employees at large organisations. SME employees and owners often spend a lot
more time out of the office because they don't have the resources that
larger companies do – multitasking is a key trait of a SME's business.
Many small business owners run a tight ship and don't even employ a
receptionist or secretary. Mobile technologies allow SME owners and
employees to be productive and stay in touch even when they're on the road
seeing clients and suppliers.
For the small business owner, there is often no clear division between
personal and working hours because he or she needs to be flexible enough to
respond to customers and opportunities quickly.
Mobile solutions allow SME owners and employees to make the most of their
time, balancing professional and personal life in an optimal way.
Most SMEs are already familiar with the benefits of mobile technologies
because they have counted on cellphones for years. Many SME employees and
owners already depend on mobile personal information management applications
such as calendaring and email to run their businesses and an increasing
number are starting to use mobile instant messaging, navigation and even Web
applications.
This is just the beginning. More SMEs are starting to mobilise applications
such as CRM, ordering and inventory tools, and salesforce automation to
allow employees in the field to make fast and informed decisions.
SMEs do need to shop around carefully before committing to a solution. They
should look for mobile solutions that offer SMEs affordable entry cost, but
which can also scale-up as their company grows.
Ideally, they need a mobile solution that can be deployed easily, that is
simple to use and that offers a reasonable monthly subscription cost. SMEs
should also be looking for solutions that do not require an IT department
for support and implementation.
All of the recent research demonstrates that mobile technologies are helping
businesses across the country to unleash business value by allowing their
employees to be productive, efficient and connected wherever they are.
We can expect to see even more South African SMEs mobilise as they try to
cope with the pressures that traffic, power outages, and other factors have
on their businesses.