Soapbox: ‘SMEs are exploiting the benefits of unified communications solutions to deliver a more personal service’

As we face the threat of a prolonged economic slowdown, the whole of Europe continues to look toward small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to pull us out of the recession.

Yet with government austerity measures constraining commercial and consumer spending, SMEs have to dig deeper to achieve growth. Sadly there is no simple solution, other than a commitment to work smarter and harder than the competition. Out of this necessity, we are increasingly seeing these businesses embrace new technologies in very innovative ways.

In a challenging economic environment, SMEs are having to focus on the most basic elements of their business – the need to cut costs, and to grab every single opportunity to sell to and serve customers. Having effective communications is not only vital for them to be competitive and grow, but critical for their survival. Yet historically these businesses tell us that they have been underserved by the telecoms industry. Increasingly they don’t want multiple solutions from multiple providers – they want one stop for everything.

There are now signs of a real sea change. Trends such as the growth of cloud services, increasing power of smartphones and the emergence of tablet devices are forcing the industry to deliver services that bring mobility together with fixed features. Not only are these services now more available, we are also seeing that SMEs are using these services to improve competitiveness.

Simple things – a single number for increased responsiveness and ease of contact, a single voicemail for fixed and mobile lines through a single supplier – are having a huge impact on the service SMEs are able to deliver to their customers. It sounds very basic, but it is surprising how many of us still give out two or three telephone numbers – be they personal, fixed, private or mobile.

The uptake of these practical and simple services is also leading to a fundamental change in the competitiveness of these businesses. Unconstrained by legacy equipment and with smaller workforces to equip and train, SMEs are exploiting the benefits of these unified communications solutions to deliver a more personal and responsive service to the people who matter the most – customers. At the same time they are able to save both time and money.

Historically, services like this were only available to large corporations with significant IT departments, who could manage and deploy these services within their businesses. Now the tables have turned, and SMEs are actually in many cases ahead of their larger rivals.

Of course technology is not the whole answer. The sentiment that “work is something you do, not a place you go” will remain an ambition for many SMEs. For many, cultural issues on the integration of mobile working practices into the mainstream are a barrier to adoption.

The SMEs that have been successful in stealing a march are the ones that have combined the technology solutions available with a shift inworking culture. Reliable and affordable services are enabling dispersed employees to call one another on their mobiles for a fixed monthly price and simple benefits like these are accelerating the adoption of flexible working practices.

The increasing numbers of SMEs who are buying into these services are outmanoeuvring their larger, slower rivals. They are truly becoming more agile and customer-focused, by enabling customers to reach the person they want to talk to, when they want to talk to them.

Many SMEs across Europe are already feeling the benefits of technology that is easier to maintain, more reliable, more scalable and more affordable than ever before, leading to much more responsive businesses who can help support SMEs to truly become the engine of economic recovery. We should hope that these enlightened small businesses who are embracing simple, responsive ways of working will both grow in numbers and fuel a sustained economic recovery.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?