Not surprisingly, the story about mobile for small business starts with Apple. Yes, Apple created the technology most of us have in our pockets and purses or on our desks right now, and helped launch the always-on workforce.
But the real story is more than just the products Apple delivered, it’s the approach the company used when designing products. Instead of the traditional mindset of designing tools IT wanted consumers to use, Apple focused on consumers’ wants and needs.
For the first time in technology history, it’s all about the end user and putting things that are useful and active in their hands, in a way they want. It’s about having apps developed in a fashion that people are asking for and being responsive to what people want.
What this means for you as a small business is twofold in scope. You now have access to tools and technology specially built for users’ needs and wants, but your customers also now expect the same user-centric focus from your business.
Access to more affordable cloud-based technology and mobile devices also means small businesses are now competing on a level playing field with much larger companies. But you can’t just purchase the technology and hope for success. Instead, the road to success starts with a shift in philosophy and culture, followed by changing your processes and technology.
Here are four factors to consider when strategizing how to use cloud-based technology and mobile devices to your business’ advantage:
1. Increasing customer expectations
Your customers live in an always-on world — and they have come to expect the same from the companies with which they do business. And if you are in B2B, their customers expect responses quickly. It’s no longer okay to wait days or even hours. Everyone knows that companies now have access to the technology and tools to respond and do business in the evenings and on weekends, so there is a much higher expectation of a fast response.
To compete in today’s digital world, small businesses must set up their business processes accordingly, create a deeply customer service-oriented mindset and provide the technologies to employees to meet these expectations. Companies that use small business-minded cloud-based technologies like Microsoft Bookings, for example, can schedule appointments 24x7x365 so that customers always have their needs met.
2. Keeping data secure
Security is a top concern for small businesses, and while a mobile workforce appears to increase risk, the technology readily exists to keep businesses safe. For instance, by using a mobile device management, or MDM, solution, you can remotely wipe business data from an employee’s personal phone.
Also, when you use a multifactor authentication process before your employee logs on to access company data (this is an extra authentication step required for logging into an account), you know your organization’s data is more secure. And by setting up data policies, such as limiting the forwarding of sensitive emails and taking screenshots of data, you can further protect your company and your customers’ information while gaining the competitive advantage of being a mobile entity. This type of functionality is now available in Microsoft Office 365 and other tools.
3. Addressing ‘bring your own device’ needs
No one wants to lug around two laptops, two phones and two tablets. Not to mention that people have very strong preferences about which brands and devices they prefer. The answer is crafting a BYOD policy that works for your employees, your company and your customers.
By using security settings and functionality available in solutions such as Office 365, it makes great sense to let employees use their own devices to access work files and communications. It’s also important to set up your business processes so employees can actually do what they need to do from their mobile devices — namely, access everything they need from one device without having to pull out another.
4. Meeting employee work/life balance needs
On the surface, it appears that the mobile workforce concept has swung the work/life balance pendulum in the wrong direction by creating expectations that employees will be checking email in the evenings and on weekends. Smart business owners provide their employees with the flexibility of balance without having to be always on, which also can be a huge selling point for recruiting.
Technologies such as video chat, co-authoring capability and group calendar features that are found in collaboration tools like Microsoft Office 365 help provide that balance so that people can work from where they want and still be as efficient as if they were all in the same physical office.
Net-net, it’s an increasingly mobile world, and fortunately for small businesses, it’s possible to compete with larger companies, thanks to readily available and affordable cloud-based technology and mobile devices.
Learn more about moving your business to the cloud and Fanatical Support for Microsoft Office 365 by Rackspace.