First off, what is a SME?
A SME is a small to medium sized enterprise or business.
So how have SME's changed in the past 30 years? A better question might be how have they not changed as they are vastly different today than years ago. This is due mainly to technological inside the workplace. These tech changes have dramatically impacted communication methods, customer service, brand identity, market research and more.
Here are a few specific examples of tech changes:
In previous years, offices had to make room for storage – and lots of it. They had to physically store things like:
- important documents
- employee records
- account files etc.
These binders, files, folders and boxes were shoved on top of cupboard, inside maintenance closets and onto shelves as far as the eyes could see. Technology has totally changed that. Nowadays, cloud technology has revolutionized the way businesses file documentation. Applications such as Google Drive allow us to make and live-edit spreadsheets, word documents are more so employees don’t print multiple copies of one thing. And services such as Dropbox allow SMEs to save, share and access all manner of files from anywhere in the world. If you have not tried dropbox yet for your business, we highly recommend you check it out.
As technology evolves and continues to grow, there will continue to be more ways for fraudsters to try and take advantage of unsuspecting small to medium business enterprises. However, technology is also ‘fighting back’ with continuous developments that serve to safeguard businesses against scams and criminals. In the past, SMEs would hand write checks and it was never suspected an employee, supplier or vendor would tamper with the check. This of course left the door open to fraudsters who were oh so happy to steal from businesses.
Today, however, technology provides SME's ways to safeguard against check washing or tampering. Companies now can use highly secure checks to safeguard themselves against the fraudsters from the past.
In the past, SMEs conducted most of their business deals in face to face meetings. New contracts were signed and deals were negotiated in person. While it is true there is still a great deal of value that comes from meeting someone in person, the advantages in technology today make it so much easier to work with people all over the globe and those advantages are undeniable. Programs such as Web conferencing, Face Time, Skype and Google Hangouts make it easy for businesses to get more work done, travel less, save money and this results in greater profit margins for everyone.
Technology has also changed the way we do market research. Previously, market research was conducted using physical surveys, reports, telephone calls and focus groups. A great deal of speculation and assumption needed to be made because gathering the data was expensive and time-consuming. Recent technology has changed all of this. Businesses can now use online surveys to conduct market research and find out exactly what their customers are thinking. Surveys are quick and easy to disseminate and extrapolate data from and are very useful.
Customer service is another area of focus that technology has completely revolutionized for SMEs. In the past, businesses predominantly invested in telephone-based customer service resources in order to answer questions and resolve problems. Recent, technology has put greater emphasis on customer service, enabling it to happen far more quickly in the kind of format customers find convenient. Telephone-based customer service has been replaced with live chat and social media responders, handling customer queries in real-time, and often around the clock.
Finally, an SME’s ‘social identity’ has also changed dramatically in the wake of technological advancements, as social media makes a business’s reputation far more difficult to manage. For instance, if a business’s customer service is sub-standard or they receive a poor review on Facebook, their bad reputation will stick. For this reason, even very small businesses are becoming aware of their social identity. SMEs are monitoring activity online to ensure that their reputation is favorable in the eyes of their customers, meaning that technology is requiring SMEs to invest time and resources in maintaining a positive digital presence.
There is simply no denying that in the past 3 decades, technology has completely changed the work environment for Small to Medium Enterprise Businesses. Things are changing at such a rapid rate it is difficult to keep up at times. One thing does seem certain, companies that embrace these new methods, features and the benefits they provide - are sure to do well in the decades to come.