19/08/2014

By Ralf Ebbinghaus, CEO at Swyx Solutions

Napoleon Bonaparte, once famously said that "England is a nation of shopkeepers". Whilst many thought that this was a derogatory comment, Napoleon himself claimed it was in fact a compliment. He was stating that British power, which at the time was equal to that of France or Russia derived its wealth, not from the size of its lands and population, but from the collective industry and enterprise of a multitude of small commercial enterprises. The statement turned out to be incredibly prophetic ‘This land of shopkeepers’ went on to establish Great Britain as a dominant player in the world’s economy for the next 200 years.

This position has not changed. According to the latest statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), there is an estimated 4.9 million businesses in the UK which employ less than 250 employees and together they have a combined turnover of £3,300 billion. The impact that SMEs have on the UK economy has not been lost on David Cameron’s Government who have pledged around £69M to help create, nurture and grow the SME market over the next few years.

However, the one thing that all new and growing businesses lack is sufficient working capital. SMEs historically, have struggled to fund new capital purchases from their own cash, and obtaining credit from leasing companies and other financial institutions has almost been impossible.

To overcome these barriers and achieve their full potential SMEs have been crying out for a ‘magic bean’ that provides them with the power to compete on equal terms with larger organisations and achieve real growth without having to obtain large amounts of borrowed cash.

The emergence of Cloud computing over the last 2-3 years could just be that special ingredient that can help these ‘later day’ shop-keepers overcome these barriers and help them grow into ‘Giants’. The overall UK cloud market for SMEs is predicted to double in size to £2.5billion and according to IDC, 98% of SMES will use some sort of cloud service by the end of 2015 suggesting that many start-ups and SMEs expects to take advantage of cloud-based technology to support growth and gain a competitive edge.

The ‘pay-as-you grow’ philosophy behind cloud based services is a perfect fit for the SME market. With cloud there is no need for any upfront capital outlay, therefore there is no huge drain on vital cash resources, no need to borrow money, or try and obtain a lease agreement. The Cloud therefore, enables SMEs to access and utilise class-leading applications, such as Unified Communications, CRM or Accounting solutions that in the past have only been in the reach of larger corporate organisations.

In particular though, communication plays a crucial role not only in keeping in touch with customers but also maintaining essential contact between colleagues, which with rise of virtualised offices and flexible working is becoming even more important as the concept of the traditional centralised office starts to diminish. Whilst telephony has often in the past been considered as a fixed device that is installed in a head office, now that geographical boundaries are eroding, it is ideally suited to the cloud where it can be delivered simply as an ‘on-demand’, software as a service, completely tailored to the needs of an individual organisation.

Here are just a few ‘game changing’ benefits that cloud-based communications can offer SMEs:

Mobility

People can communicate regardless of location, without incurring additional costs

Knowledge is Power

Provides ability to communicate and collaborate with knowledge workers across the enterprise

Borderless markets

You can deploy a communication solution that can be used by anyone at any location across the globe

No downtime

Changing a business telephone number no longer means loss of business

‘Always on’ culture

You can communicate virtually with your customers, 24/7

Changing lifestyles

Flexible and virtual working is the norm, staff can turn their own mobile devices into another extension of the phone system

Instant Response

Respond to customers instantly on all types of media, not just voice but social media, SMS or IM (Instant Messaging)

For expanding SMEs to truly thrive and compete they need good communication. As the UK is one of the most mature markets in Europe for cloud-based services, having access to applications such as Unified Communications is likely to be a significant catalyst that will nurture the growth of SMEs and drive their profits sky-wards.