By Chris Pentago
Like any other thing, technology comes at a huge price especially in the first years of its invention. As a result, access of these business-changing inventions has only been restricted to the high and mighty in the business.
These are the blue chip companies that have made quite some ground into the market. The only SMEs that have been able to benefit from technology immediately after its invention are the ones that have taken root in the industry.
To fully understand the point, one only needs to take the example of the invention of Personal Computers, better known as PCs, back in the 80s. Other technologies that can help illustrate this point include office networking, the emergence of mobile phones or cell phones and the 90s introduction of the Internet.
At the turn of the millennium, there was the invention of ability of companies to keep mass data on servers that were locally hosted. Others included ability to host e-commerce shops and technology that made it easy to provide employees with portable computing.
While we cannot deny that these technologies were actually very critical, the sad truth is that it was not so for many smaller business outfits until much later. The main reason why many small ventures could not immediately take advantage of these ground-breaking technologies is that their costs as well as implementation were simply out of reach for many small business organisations.
By the time the price of these technologies came down so that SMEs could afford them, the big boys had already used the technology to move several steps ahead of the smaller businesses. In some cases, whenever the small boys tried to install the software or install larger servers, the software was either too expensive for them or was too powerful.
In some situations, the software required shoehorning in order to fit the needs of smaller businesses. The worst part was that they had to wait until such a time when a package that was considered less powerful was developed for their businesses.
Luckily though, this is no longer the case today. For around half a decade ago, companies like AWS have been working round the clock with regard to commoditisation of big business infrastructure, once known as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). These include things like storage space, hosting and servers.
The rationale behind this has been that every type of business, its size or location notwithstanding, is entitled to equal access to same technology levels. This then creates a level playing field for both the big and the small boys.
The result is that more business organisations, both smaller and multinational companies, have migrated either to the cloud or a virtualised environment.
This has subsequently enabled them to minimize overheads, be assured that their data is safe as well as accessible every time they need them and finally, to scale the data as much as they require to.
In turn, IaaS has given birth to new industries (like Software as a Service, SaaS), new services which, only 5 years ago, were not anywhere on the radar but which have assisted businesses in capitalizing on the cloud's ubiquity as well as in streamlining their business operations.
Although some of these products are hardware-based (for instance the smartphone), the vast majority of them are software.
This software is known more as apps than just software. Using these apps, individuals and businesses, both large and small, can now accomplish their goals with a lot of ease.
I'll quote one sentence I read recently on Deputy's website (business software vendor), which precisely depicts the current state in the industry:
The growing majority of app designers are no longer distinguishing between big or small business, but rather, understand that the problems which afflict big business are often the things which keep small business owners awake at night and which thus need solving.
Thus, app designers know that they have to come up with solutions to these problems. Apps are used by both small and more established industry players. They serve the same purpose and also come at the same price be it for the more established companies or for the upstarts which are still in their nascent stages.
The app could be aimed at telling where staffs currently are, or they could be designed for improving customer service. Others are meant to show the current stock inventory while yet others indicate the project timeline every employee is up to.
It does not really matter what the app does. The bottom line is that app designers and developers understand that their inventions will only stand to count when they help people to succeed with their tasks, but not choose and pick.
Therefore, if your business falls in the category of small to medium, take heart because the software as well as hardware tools that your business needs are not half as expensive as they used to be a couple of years back.
Also, they are not the overpowered platforms that could not fit the needs of smaller businesses. Instead, owing to growing access that all companies have a raft of new services such as cloud, the playing field for businesses has been leveled.
This in turn has allowed any type of business, however small, to scale as fast as needed as well as to eat in the same plate with the big boys in town. This they do not only simply but also affordable.
Therefore, the death of big business platforms is actually a good thing for small businesses. Everybody starts small. Even those who are today big started as one-store shops. It is therefore very important to ensure that businesses that are just starting out are given an enabling environment to flourish and to prosper.
But if they continue to be taken advantage of by the big guys who have money and means, they will never attain the same heights as the more established companies.
In hindsight, and in as much as the big boys might not like it, we can conclude that the demise of big business infrastructure was actually a blessing in disguise for the small and medium enterprises.