Globally, small, medium and start-up companies are fuelling growth as a number of markets grapple with the effects of the current economic downturn. At a time when many large enterprises are restructuring for survival, their more agile SME counterparts have enormous opportunity for growth by harnessing the “Three Ps – productivity, performance and purpose, of SME computing”. Country Manager for Lenovo Africa Graham Braum provides advice on the technology basics that SMEs need to know to power their business success today.
In Africa, SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are undoubtedly the superheroes of our emerging economy and are a vital component of growth and prosperity. Traditionally there was a vast gulf between the small family firms and the sudden influx of global corporations – particularly in the energy, construction and finance industries –but this gap has closed. As governments start to encourage entrepreneurship, smaller-scale businesses are beginning to thrive.
Some researchers have estimated the total economic output of SMEs in South Africa to be 50% of the GDP. It is also estimated that SMEs provide employment to about 60% of the labour force. SMEs are an important contributor to the South African economy and are considered a driver of employment, given the formal sector’s flat growth rate.
However, while global spending on IT is on the rise, SMEs in the region may be lacking access to advice on the right technological investments to empower their businesses. Many SMEs could benefit both from driving down operational and capital costs of IT, and from obtaining richer functionality and better business flexibility. The majority, however, do not employ dedicated IT management to keep their systems running and rather rely on outsourced helpdesks for ad hoc support. In this scenario, how can business owners – or those tasked with IT decisions – be confident in the investments they make in enterprise technology?
Technology is cornerstone of many strong business operations – a fact as relevant to a sole trader as to the most complex multinational. Where these two extremes differ is in how technology is utilised, and what is vital to today’s business success today and tomorrow’s growth. While technology can help SMEs function more efficiently in their business processes, many don’t recognise the real and measurable impact that the right solution can have on their bottom line, be it through reduced energy consumption or lower operating costs. In assisting SMEs to find that right solution, we talk about the “3 Ps of SME computing”: productivity, performance and purpose.
In Africa, SME workforces are highly mobile. There are more mobile devices in Africa than toothbrushes. With that in mind, it only means mobility remains king, but that no longer means smaller is better. The size and weight of devices remain critical factors yet, beyond basic dimensions, a robust design that can withstand the knocks and bumps that inevitably occur in transit suddenly matters more than it would for desktops in the office.
Remaining productive on the move requires a sizeable screen that is fit for the job and reliable connectivity that empowers the freedom to work from wherever employees find themselves logging on. For on-the-go SME workforces, a fast boot up and long battery life can make the difference between closing that all-important sale and missing out.
Finally, we consider performance. How many small business owners are technology specialists on the side? With third party IT contractors or in-house management resources presenting a significant expense, SME businesses need to seriously consider their support requirements and how much time they spend on simple tasks like networking computers to the server, setting up VPN access or simply connecting to printers. Diagnosing simple problems can waste time and be costly for these organisations. Performance therefore needs to include consideration of self-diagnosis tools that can be built into today’s machines, helping SME business users to manage, set up and quickly resolve basic issues.
With the right technologies in place to help rather than hinder, SMEs can operate efficiently and provide the flexibility previously limited to large organisations with big-budget IT systems. In the ThinkPad Edge E430 and E530 laptops, for example, Lenovo builds in the Lenovo Solutions for Small Business (LSSB) package that automates routine maintenance and security tasks to help support and protect users. Without having to think about firewalls, virus protection and backing up data, SME owners can focus on their businesses without having to worry about their computers.
With the future of emerging economies being built on the back of SMEs it is vital that these organisations have the right computing advice to fully support their business. In a region of rapid growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, SMEs are key to a thriving business community. Technology needs to be a tool that enables and supports their growth.