Small business is a driving force in many countries, employing millions of workers and making a significant contribution to the global economy. In fact, they represent around 90% of the business population, and more than 50% of employment worldwide.
With the ongoing global pandemic and consequential social distancing measures still in effect, many small companies are still enduring financial hardship. With small businesses looking to reopen as soon as possible, now is the time to reflect on lessons learned and improvements that can be made to help organizations move forward during this challenging time.
Technology as one of the key factors for survival
To adapt to the world’s new reality, businesses have been forced to embrace new technologies so they can continue to operate effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means introducing new digital tools for collaborative working, online sales, etc. to enable effective remote working while maximizing productivity. According to a survey from the Connected Commerce Council, 76% of small enterprises in the US said they rely more on digital tools than before the pandemic and that without their use, a third would have had to close part or all of their business.
While technology is largely regarded as a positive in business, attitudes towards implementing new technology is not necessarily as confident. Many companies do not feel ready to adopt digital services and are reluctant to accept change in their daily technology, even when operating under normal circumstances. Any halt to normality or a crisis can highlight the value of deploying new, helpful technology such as those that facilitate operations like cloud-based software.
Expectation of cloud adoption versus reality
Although cloud and SaaS adoption rates are still considered high, many small businesses (up to 250 employees) still use on-premise solutions. According to a survey from Analysys Mason, cloud-based applications are the top priority for these businesses, and 60% of them are planning to increase spending on cloud services. However, the survey also revealed that on-premise solutions still dominate in all types of services including productivity, procurement and business management software, among others.
COVID-19 lockdown procedures revealed the extent to which companies are ready to move the entire office to work remotely. Those that only have on-premises infrastructure may have struggled, as their IT administrators would not have had the tools or knowledge to manage employees’ desktops remotely.
Uncertainty, risks and compliance issues, as well as a lack of resources, are all common reasons to resist making the move to cloud solutions. Lack of resources in particular is cited time and again, with IT managers of small and medium companies often having to maintain their infrastructures on a very limited budget or without any at all. With many businesses currently more focused on meeting immediate demands, it is understandable for such strategic visions to be put on hold. But, as soon as the crisis is over, it will be important to bring back priorities and make adjustments to IT operations according to lessons learned.
Resistance to change
Sometimes, even the smallest changes, such as software improvements that are designed to simplify usage, are met with mistrust. For example, many cybersecurity vendors regularly update their product features and functionality to enhance the user experience. This could be something as simple as turning processes from manual to automatic to simplify security management. However, customers get used to manual actions, and it is normal for support teams to receive feedback asking for features to return to the previous way of working.
Kaspersky’s product support team has received similar requests from customers about past product updates. Most of the requests included questions like where to find the manual function, how to use it in the new version, why it has disappeared, and how to bring it back. As well as a reluctance to change, this reaction also highlights a key lesson for us as a vendor: all improvements should be explained to customers very carefully so they understand and buy into the benefits of the enhancements that were made.
Change is scary, but inevitable
COVID-19 has brought huge challenges for many small businesses, but if there is one positive to take away from the situation, it has to be the readiness for change. All of the examples highlighted above are not only about taking a conscious decision to move to the cloud or a new way of working, they are about making a change to your overall mindset. Businesses should be open to new ways of doing things, especially if it simplifies their work. Changes don’t need to be wholesale, but small ones that make daily routines that little bit easier. During challenging times when businesses have to transform on the fly in order to survive, this mindset will serve them well.
Alexander Moiseev is the Chief Business Officer of Kaspersky, responsible for sales strategy and marketing globally. Prior to this role, Alexander was Kaspersky’s Chief Sales Officer, where he led global sales and new business development.