Why smaller businesses are best placed for technology change

By: Chas Moloney

Date: 3 April 2012

Against the backdrop of a challenging economic climate and unpredicted social and political upheavals, the need for agility and flexibility in business is paramount. Accompanying this turbulent environment is a tidal wave of technology change. It’s having an impact on every aspect of businesses operations, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

These trends are fuelling an unprecedented change to the way businesses and employees operate. And many organisations aren’t ready to adapt to the future workplace. 

A power shift away from management

Recent Ricoh research – conducted via the Economist Intelligence Unit – demonstrates how power is shifting away from the traditional management hierarchy. This research found that 63% of business leaders are predicting that business decision-making will shift towards individual employees, as businesses move towards a decentralised structure by 2020.

Although lacking the financial resources of bigger companies, smaller businesses could find themselves at an advantage in this scenario. Their size and nature means they’re more likely to have a cohesive, collaborative management structure where the best ideas can rise to the top and be implemented into everyday operations.

Likewise, SMEs often have a more flexible approach to technology adoption. Having a smaller workforce makes IT innovation more commonplace. For instance, it’s easier to take an individual approach to IT provision, giving each member of staff access to the technology they’re most comfortable with.

Democratic data access

It is, however, difficult to shift decision-making to employees if they do not have access to the data and documents they need to take action. So if your business really wants to get ready for employee empowerment, you may need to rethink how your document processes work. The aim is to ensure important information is shared flexibly across your whole company.

The research also points towards a new, more collaborative approach to product and service development. Nearly 86% of business leaders agreed that project teams will typically include people from outside the organisation like customers, partners and communities.

This adds weight to the argument for shifting towards a connected business model where all these parties are linked and able to communicate effectively so they can develop the brightest ideas.

Despite the challenges that lie ahead, there’s a great opportunity here for companies willing to implementing more collaborative technologies. The tidal wave of technology change will give birth to a new generation of business success stories, empowered by customers and partners alike.

Chas Moloney is a director at Ricoh UK.

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