If you are not innovating, you are falling behind

By: Jamie Fryer

Do you lead a small or medium-sized business (SME)? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself honestly if your company is innovative enough to stay ahead of your competitors. A recent whitepaper by Oxford Economics, entitled “SMEs Equipped to Compete: Innovation and Differentiation” says that there has never been a more important time for innovation to play a starring role for SMEs, due to the global economy, which is being driven by increasingly empowered consumers.

Technology is vital to success on these fronts, the whitepaper states, and therefore any technology investments should focus heavily on creating new products and services to meet changing customer needs. The study of 2,100 executives from SMEs in 21 countries shows they are starting to grasp the importance of this. According to the whitepaper, more than half (51 percent of survey respondents said that innovation, cost reduction and increased efficiencies are the most important strategies to drive their future growth.

Almost as many (49 percent) respondents said that developing new products and services was most important, while 39 percent listed strengthening customer relationships as a key strategic initiative. In addition to this, more than one-third said that creating a culture of innovation was a top priority in their business transformation initiatives.

So what does all this tell us? For one thing, SMEs clearly depend on technology to help them innovate. In fact, well over half of respondents cited technology as a key differentiator for their firms, saying that technology was central to their business transformation efforts. The whitepaper went as far as to say that innovation was “the key to sustainability” and should be done “at every opportunity.”

The trickiest part may be in identifying the type of technology and the specific tools you need to help your company be more innovative. It’s often not what you think. When we think of innovation, we tend to think of bells and whistles or expensive niche equipment. But it’s important to take a step back and consider your core business, your goals and what some of your roadblocks might be. Do you need to be more efficient at number crunching, or more responsive to your customers? Sorting out these details, and investing in the tools that can help with these issues, not only allows you to be more competitive, but also can free you up to work on the strategic planning you never seem to have enough time for.

Think about it. How would your company be more innovative, if time were no object? Are there technology upgrades within your budget to help you achieve this?