Technology basics for SMEs

Oliver Ebel, executive director and general manager, Middle East and Africa market at Lenovo discusses the basics SMEs need to know to power their business success

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Technology basics for SMEs Ebel says SMEs in the region lack access to advice on the right technology solutions.
By  Oliver Ebel Published  March 23, 2013

Oliver Ebel, executive director and general manager, Middle East and Africa market at Lenovo discusses the basics SMEs need to know to power their business success.

Around the world, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start up companies are providing fuel for the engines of growth in many markets in the post-downturn era. At a time when many large enterprises may be restructuring for survival in the immediate term, their more agile counterparts in the SME sector have enormous opportunity for growth.

Here in the Middle East, SMEs undoubtedly represent the superheroes of our economy and are a vital component of growth and prosperity. Traditionally, there may have been a vast gulf between the small family firms trading in the souks and the sudden influx of global corporations – particularly in the energy, construction and finance industries – that were attracted by the region’s boom time, but that gap has closed as governments encourage entrepreneurship and smaller-scale businesses thrive.

Today, 95% of businesses registered in the UAE and 93% of businesses in Saudi Arabia fall into the SME category, while overall in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) SMEs are recognised for their contribution of 28% of the region’s income. In fact, growth in this sector is vital to government objectives to increase non-oil GDP in several Gulf countries, and a core contributor to the new income streams that many will increasingly rely on in this decade and beyond.

However, while global spending on IT is on the rise in this sector, SMEs in the region may be lacking access to advice on the right technology investment to power their business. The majority do not employ dedicated IT staff and many rely on outsourced helpdesks for ad hoc support to keep their systems running. In this scenario, how can business owners – or those tasked with IT decisions – be confident in the investments they make in enterprise technology?

Technology can be the make or break of a strong business operation – a fact as relevant to a sole trader as to the most complex multinational organisation. Where these two extremes differ is in how technology is used, and what is vital to the business for success today and growth tomorrow. In assisting SMEs to find that right solution, we talk about the “three Ps” of SME computing and these are: productivity, performance and purpose.

In the Middle East, SME workforces tend to be highly mobile. With territories united by a common domestic language, Arabic, a secondary business language, English, and located in such close proximity, it is viable to conduct business on a regional scale when equipped with the right business tools. With purpose and design in mind, that means mobility remains king, but that no longer means smaller is better. The size and weight of devices remain critical factors yet, beyond basic dimensions, a robust design that can withstand the knocks and bumps that inevitably occur in transit suddenly matters more than it would for desktops in the office.

Remaining productive on the move requires a sizeable screen that is fit for the job and reliable connectivity that empowers the freedom to work from wherever staff find themselves logging on.

Therefore, performance needs to include consideration of self-diagnosis tools that can be built into today’s machines, helping SME business users to manage setup and quickly resolve basic issues.

With the right technologies in place to help rather than hinder their progress and success, SME organisations can operate efficiently and provide the flexibility previously seen as limited to the large organisations with big budget IT systems. With the future of emerging economies being built on the back of SME’s it is vital that these organisations have the right computing advice to support their business. In a region of rapid growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, SME’s are key to a thriving business community and technology needs to be a tool to enable and support their growth and success.

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