Small businesses operate with a shoestring budget. They don’t have enough human resources. Due to constraint of resources, they often back out from investing in risky ventures.
Mobility is the buzzword for them. Mobility brings solutions to several of their problems. Thanks to enterprise mobility, small businesses can cut down on operating expenses, host a webinar to bag qualified leads and opt for remote staffing.
The Mobility Challenges Faced by Small Businesses
But alongside the benefits, mobility brings challenges. The challenges include:
Reconfiguring the Business Process
In a world dominated by mobile devices, business processes need to be mobility-centric. That’s a challenge for small businesses because most of them don’t have a presence that is optimized primarily for handheld devices.
This could be problematic for them for the following reasons:
Smart devices will play a bigger role in the future. At this moment, responsive design bridges the gulf between handheld and desktop devices. But when the mobile-first approach becomes the norm, PCs and desktop devices will become irrelevant.
Small businesses normally select not-so-expensive hosting servers. Such servers don’t support file syncing between devices, making it difficult for them to migrate business process to the handheld world.
The solution to this challenge is to build custom business applications for the mobile platform and moving to a task-oriented mobility-optimized platform in a phased manner.
Selecting Cloud Server
Hardly any enterprise opts for a physical server these days. Cloud is everyone’s favorite. With a rapid spread, cloud is becoming more and more colorful. Small businesses are not left out. They enjoy
- Office suite add-on with cloud storage,
- Control over who views the content,
- Automatic file updating and syncing, and
- Data protection, recovery and analytics.
Even though useful, these features are for starters. Almost all cloud servers offer them, making it difficult for a small business to select a server.
To overcome this challenge, the owner of a small enterprise should inquire (before selecting a cloud server) whether the server offers zero-day update, device diversity, flexibility in expense management and rapid deployment.
These features are mobility-friendly and tailor-made for small enterprises. Quick deployment saves valuable time, whereas flexibility of expense management allows a small business to scale at its own pace.
Bring Your Own Device
BYOD has been a hot topic since the time it was first surfaced as a viable idea. For small businesses, BYOD brings advantages in droves. It saves cost, saves time and offers a cogent solution for downtime.
But it introduces the following concerns:
BYOD employees cannot access classified information. Such information could be critical to a small business. There’s no way a business would allow its employees to access such information on their personal devices.
Besides, some software can only be installed on specific devices. Photoshop is now available in Adobe Creative Cloud suite. But in the past, it was installable on individual machines. BYOD employees cannot access such software.
Security and deployability apart, BYOD doesn’t allow for an integrated work environment. But in IT environment, device management standards require a centralized system to be in place.
To overcome BYOD challenges, small businesses need to set a BYOD policy, and then ensure regulatory compliances within the policy framework. Additionally, they can deliver training to a BYOD workforce and have a robust data-recovery plan.
A small business faces two sets of issues when it comes to enterprise app development and management.
First, they struggle to keep the app up and running, often despite using cloud servers. The technical glitches in the app are responsible for this. Suhas Uliyar, Oracle’s VP of mobile strategy said “Poor performance and speed are deal-breakers for a company when it comes to their enterprise apps …”
Secondly, there are front-end development challenges. The UX designers who work in small enterprises lack expertise. On top of that, they (and developers too) don’t get access to the best tools because those tools are quite expensive.
One solution to this problem comes with the Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP). MADPs house low-code tools. They come with customizable templates and drag-and-drop capabilities.
Employee apps are for internal communication purposes. Digitization in the corporate environment often fails to include blue collar employees. In some companies, non-desk employees lack access to email servers. Staff communication apps bring such employees under the corporate umbrella.
Apps like Asana, ConnecTeam, and Trello are employee apps. These apps empower companies where specific segments of employees lack access to PCs. ConnecTeam allows customers to develop their own Smartphone apps. Enterprises can not only train their employees, but can supervise them too.
I used all three tools mentioned above. My favorite is ConnecTeam. It’s not that Trello or Asana render poor service. It’s that I found their interfaces less user-friendly. Trello cards are a bit confusing and the difference between Asana’s free and paid versions is huge.
ConnecTeam, on the other hand, enables enterprises to build their own apps, allows them to develop custom enterprise apps and eases internal communication. Some enterprises don’t like the idea of distributing corporate brochures via third party apps. They can use it.
Industries with a large number of blue collar employees engaged in non-desk jobs require this solution. In some industries like construction, the communication model is archaic. Via this app, workers from these industries can communicate with each other and also with their managers. This way, they could simplify the work and avoid hazards.
The app can also digitize the whole training procedure and cut down on cost. In the retail industry, the cost of boarding and training each individual employee for two weeks is roughly $1000. Enterprises that used this app reported saving 80 percent of employee training and saving 55 percent of the internal communication budget.
You may select some other tool, but make sure it provides all these features.
Ready for IoT
IoT is a reality. We live in a multi-screen world, which logically extends to IoT. IoT presents challenges for enterprises, especially small enterprises.
In the preceding paragraph, we’ve discussed the challenges that come with the mobile web. The Internet of Things is more complicated than the desktop and mobile web combined.
The device-agnostic approach doesn’t bode well with IoT because the things or atoms have different types of sensors in them. One device may have a gyroscope, another a motion sensor while the third may have an RFID tag. Because these devices are connected, a business would have to optimize its enterprise app separately for all of them.
This could be time-consuming and there could be a lack of in-house talent to pull this task off. Moreover, IoT connectivity models can be variegated. Things-to-things, people-to-things, machine-to-machine (M2M) are some of the models. Small enterprises may not have enough resources to accommodate all such models.
There’s no easy solution to this challenge. A small enterprise can fix mobility bottlenecks and upgrade its PoS terminal or make it responsive. Comply to the EVM liability shift and similar compliance standards. It also needs to start offering portable services and optimize its operations for connected space.
Lead generation may be a numbers game, but lead nurturing requires persuasion skills. Mobility is a key factor in lead nurturing.
Most enterprises use marketing automation platforms. State-of-the-art platforms track prospects and based on their behavioral reading, offer sales notifications. Obtaining sales suggestions from an automated system and acting upon such suggestions requires mobility.
Unfortunately, many small enterprises depend on warm and cold calling for nurturing leads. Cold calling is dead already. Warm calling is no good either. MA platforms like Hubspot and Marketo offer mobility, but the pricing of those tools doesn’t suit the mid-market.
The key to overcome this challenge is to ensure better collaboration between employees, so that leads are quickly turned into sales prospects and unnecessary parts of the sales funnel are eliminated.
Of course, depending on automation sounds better, but just as I mentioned, it’s a costly solution.
Employee Expectation Management
Mobility depends on the workforce. Unless a business has an agile workforce, it cannot execute any mobility strategy.
The first step to create an agile work environment is to address employee needs, understand their skill shortages and manage their expectation accordingly.
Infrastructural changes are pivotal. But employee expectations are more important. To understand them, small enterprises need to consider the demographic sets to which their employees belong.
Most employees are millennials. They prefer workforce mobility and remote working. They also have a penchant for cool technology. Millennial men love to try out new technologies, while women gravitate towards multimedia experience. Unlike the boomers, millennials love to learn, unlearn and relearn, indicating they are good at receiving training.
The COO of Projectplace, Tobias Andersson said “Expectation Management is unfortunately usually overlooked until a tsunami of dissatisfaction hits, with a ripple effect of reduced productivity,” demonstrating the importance of managing the expectations of employees.
Summing Up the Solutions for These Mobility Challenges
If properly followed, the seven tips shared here can increase the mobile-readiness of a small enterprise. As of today, mobility is important, but tomorrow it will be a necessity. So if you run a small business, follow the seven tips discussed here and be at peace.
Businessman on Mobile Phone Photo via Shutterstock