By Danny Molhoek, General Manager North West Europe, Lexmark
The global landscape for small and medium-size businesses is set to change dramatically in the next few years.
Increasing demand for digital transformation, changing employee habits and more rapidly shifting (and potentially unpredictable) economic conditions mean a challenging road ahead for SMEs.
And while it's tough (and probably foolish) to make any concrete predictions about exactly how things will transform, there are some particular challenges which will prove the most significant for the future of SMEs.
Technology will for many play the most prominent role in business transformation.
Cloud migration and harnessing the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, are just two key developments for businesses across the globe. And they will only become more crucial over time.
And these are just today’s trends. As well as migrating to the cloud, gathering and harnessing data and preventing advancing cyber security threats, SMEs also need to ensure they’re flexible and agile enough to adapt to even newer technologies as they emerge. These new technologies will prove significant growth opportunities for SMEs.
If the past few years have taught economic forecasters anything, it's not to make too many predictions. And with so much technological change happening everywhere from the largest multinational corporations to the tiniest tech startups, it’s inevitable that investment planning may prove tricky in the coming years.
It's crucial, therefore, for SMEs to budget flexibly, but also reduce financial risks wherever possible – the more areas of a business that can be financially calculable, the better they can plan their investments.
It'll also be more important than ever to emphasise value for money and scalability in all areas of purchasing and investment.
3. Your workforce
The increasingly mobile workforce, from baby boomers to millennials, is likely to transform the makeup of SMBs even more in the next four years.
The who, what, where, when and why of the working day is transforming.
Business doesn't happen in just one location anymore. And the traditional 9 to 5 working day is no longer the norm. Where these habits would have once hindered productivity for the average SME, today employees are enabled to stay connected with the business no matter where they are in the world – mostly thanks to those aforementioned technological innovations.
Will there be any stability?
Those are some of the things that will probably change – but will anything stay the same? Can there be any tangible stability for SMEs over the next four years or so?
SMEs are faced with these changing conditions. They have to find a way to manage them and make the best out of it. With so much set to change over the next four years, SMEs will surely relish this kind of stability in an increasingly unpredictable business landscape.