Small businesses are the backbone of South Africa’s economy, fuelling growth, and driving demand for new products and services. However, they need to innovate and digitalise in line with their enterprise counterparts in order to remain competitive.

Although small businesses are critical to the success of the country, they face significant barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential and are delaying digital transformation within this sector.

So says Adeshni Rohit, business unit manager for Cisco at Axiz. “In a world that has dramatically changed due to the internet, as well as automation and digitisation, performance is intrinsically linked to the ability to employ technology to enhance customer experience, boost efficiency and streamline operations.”

However, while these entities recognise the need to transform digitally, and make the most of the technologies that are available today, there are several hurdles in their way. “Firstly, for most smaller companies, IT environments are becoming increasingly complex. Look at the ubiquity of BYO – whether device or application, user expectation of 100% availability, managing networking, other infrastructure, as well as information security, and you’ll see this is a huge job for a small businesses.”

She says small businesses also face the challenge of limited human resources. “Larger enterprises have IT teams to implement the IT strategy, sharing the load among many employees. These companies, if they are lucky, will have a dedicated IT manager, but more often than not, they’ll have someone part-time. Either way, resources are usually stretched way too thin.”

The lack of IT staff can also lead to confusion, as any dedicated IT person will need to be something of a ‘Jack of all trades’, who knows a little about a lot, rather than a specialist in one area of IT. Today’s solutions are often over complicated, often focusing on functionality at the expense of usability, Rohit explains. “This leads to long and onerous implementations, delaying businesses from realising the potential of their new investments, and widening the gap between them, and their larger competitors.”

Rohit says the final and largest obstacle that smaller organisations face is budget constraints. “They don’t have anywhere near the budgets that large corporates do, and all of them need IT investments to be affordable, not just in terms of the purchase price, but in terms of upkeep and maintenance, and they need them to offer a good return on investment. Problems arise when the business grows quickly, or alters its strategy, as solutions that offer enough scalability are often priced out of the reach of most of them. They need solutions, within their price range, that can meet their changing needs.”

According to her, the more a small business depends on technology, the greater the burden on its limited IT staff will be. “With digital transformation now being seen as a business imperative, the pressure is only going to intensify. These companies need IT solutions that are simple to manage and do not sacrifice performance for the sake of cost.”

The good news, says Rohit, is that this doesn’t mean having to go for more basic solutions with fewer features, it means choosing products that were built with the small businesses in mind. “Cisco has introduced a range of solutions specifically for these entities, that are easy and quick to set up, and once deployed, are simple to use and maintain, and can scale up as needed. This will bring massive savings in both time and cost, and will allow Small Businesses to leverage the latest trends, such as cloud, analytics and mobility. In addition, the solutions are innately user-friendly and secure, and have the ability to trach and capture insights, which enables the business to become more agile, and react quickly.”

She says small businesses need to spend more time focusing on their businesses and not on their technologies. “Cisco Small Business solutions are secure, scalable and easy to use. From integrated software that can scale with the business, to unified technology that significantly reduces complexity, Cisco, through Axiz, offers a range of on-premise and cloud-managed solutions are designed to help businesses of this size digitally transform, and address the challenges they face.”