In today’s digital age, technology is not just a process enabler, but a strategic priority to businesses of any sector. With Industry 4.0 taking shape globally, businesses can no longer adhere to conventional strategies for generating businesses or dealing with customers. Nicknamed as Digital Transformation (DX), information technology (IT) revolution is now at its pinnacle; but considering the pace at which communication technologies are evolving, especially the 5G, the scope of DX is set to rise further in the next couple of years. Businesses that keep abreast of the latest innovations will stay agile and earn the competitive differentiation.
Technology can have a direct impact on the profitability of a business. For example, adopting the right communications technology enables businesses to share information across global partners and customers, leading to rapid expansion in business network and customer base. Modern Cloud-based communications and collaboration tools, on the other hand, help businesses reduce CAPEX significantly. Big data and analytics can be used to enhance customer experience while location-based analytics can help boost sales. A variety of CRM and social tools are available to boost customer engagement.
While the overall technology landscape looks highly promising, the scenario at SMEs is different, especially in developing countries like India. Anup Wadhwa, director, Automation Industry Association, recently stated that Indian SME sector is not yet prepared for Industry 4.0. He said that lot of industries in the SME sector are somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0 and India’s unique challenge is to get them automate their machines, refine processes, develop the skill and talent so that they can actually begin to understand where the next big platform is. This is especially significant because SMBs are the backbone of an economy. In India, MSMEs contribute around 6.11% of the manufacturing GDP and 24.63% of the GDP from service activities as well as 33.4% of India’s manufacturing output.
Technology adoption has been a grave concern for SMEs. There are diverse options to choose from, and there are multiple vendors offering solutions under different models and price tags. The shorter technology lifecycle and faster technology evolution often pose risk to such investments. Thus, for enterprises with limited IT budget, technology investment remains a conundrum. In fact, the American Express Global SME Pulse 2018 found that 55 percent of Indian SMEs point to using size, agility and innovation as among the top strategies for fueling growth in 2018. However, they stated that getting access to finance to grow business is harder, compared to their global counterparts. This is one of the primary reasons why SMEs sidestep from making technology investments. Indeed, this will have a direct impact on the industry as a whole, as well as the country’s economy.
“Connectivity, connectedness and the adoption of digital technologies by SMEs can offer the opportunity for tech SMEs to play a major role in a country’s economy, as well as the adoption of broadband connectivity and technology in SMEs in non-tech sectors,” says a statement from ITU.
SMEs also face hurdles while transforming from legacy infrastructure to newer technologies. The most common example is the shift towards Cloud-based platforms. Integration of processes and implementation of the appropriate software solutions demand a lot of time and expertise. With minimal IT skills and lack of guidance, many firms fail in such scenarios, leading to postponement or total cancellation of the project.
A technology consultant comes into picture in this context. Consultation provides a platform for the business to interact with technology experts and identify the right solution suitable for them. Technology decision making is highly complex as it involves several considerations like business goal, budget, scalability, future-preparedness, etc. A major technology overhaul may also demand staff training and ongoing support. With a dedicated consultant to guide you throughout the process – right from selection to implementation and after-sales consultation – the process becomes hassle-free. For startups and small businesses who are not familiar with SLAs and legal implications of such deals, a consultant will be of great help.
The cost of consultation may prevent some customers from turning to such services. However, the fact is that in some cases, technology consultation is offered for free or at minimum cost. This happens when the consultant firm also provides the technology. In such cases, customers don’t have to pay hefty charges for consultation. Even in other cases, the charges associated with technology consultation can be justified considering the benefits derived from such services.
TataTele Business Services Meet4Solutions, for example, is a technology consultation platform that allows users interact with experts through online videos. According to the company, the solution allows customers to schedule an online consultation with their solution architects at a convenient time. With Tata Tele Business Services already offering a wide array of technology and services for businesses, the consultation is a win-win for both the company and the customer. Some of their services include Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Collaboration, Internet of Things (IoT), security, marketing solutions, Internet leased line, workforce management, toll free solutions, fleet management and vehicle tracking.