The tools and technology we rely on to get work done are changing. Small- and medium-sized businesses are weaving together a variety of solutions, instead of trusting a single vendor to meet all of their needs. The era of the 1-size-fits-all technology solution is over. It's so long to integrated systems like the IBM PC, and hello to monthly and annual subscriptions (Software as a Service).
You’re already weaving your own technological solution
Think, for a moment, about the business tools you use daily. Editing a Word doc? You probably have an Office 365 subscription. Collaborating in Google Docs to get a proposal across the finish line? You’ve got G-Suite. Then there’s the hardware—the endless selection of enterprise systems that run Windows 10, Apple products and a relatively new entrant into the field: Chromebooks.
Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are empowering employees to choose how they get work done, adding even more puzzle pieces into the fray. For these reasons, every business and every team is accomplishing critical tasks in unique ways, and that’s something to celebrate.
Specialization is empowering employees to accomplish more
In the current environment, employers and employees are empowered to reflect on their specific needs, review different solutions and create a framework that works best for them. These solutions speak to the unique experience that individuals have had with technology in their lives—instead of forcing Mac people to become Windows people and vice versa.
Did you know that employees save 81 minutes per week when they use their own devices instead of company-issued equipment? (Cisco) We can get more done when the devices we use to earn a living are the same ones we use to keep in touch with friends and family, or look up recipes for dinner.
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Gathering storm clouds
Cloud technology—the ability to move content from individual devices into a secure, shared resource (i.e. data center) synchronized for every user—has been a game changer since Eric Schmidt popularized the term in 2006.
Not surprisingly, Google made cloud-based collaboration its focus as it rolled out G-Suite. Microsoft launched Onedrive but it’s only recently begun to offer the collaboration features that Google has offered out-of-the-box. It’s a classic case of a legacy product trying to catch up to a newer, more innovative platform.
Microsoft is a little late to the real-time collaboration party, but its recent move to launch web-based Office 365 apps shows it's willing to do things the Google way if it means it can end the bleeding of Fortune 500 clients like Airbus and 4 million other smaller players.
Reducing trouble tickets
One of the most frustrating aspects of running a company is getting knowledgeable, efficient help when things stop working. The platforms that are winning and retaining enterprise clients are those that provide exceptional support.
Small-business owners can feel overlooked when it comes to getting help—long hold times, support reps that barely speak the same language and an endless set of hoops to jump through in order to reach someone with the knowledge and capacity to solve their issue.
In my experience, Microsoft is still catching up to Google in this regard. When I run into issues with Office 365, it’s a long wait to reach someone that may be able to help. More often than not I have to be transferred multiple times and struggle to understand the person on the other end of the phone while they provide me with canned answers to separate issues from why I’m calling in.
Google continues to invest heavily in U.S. based support for their G-Suite and hardware customers. For small business owners, this higher level of support means that it’s easier to get work done.
Word processing, spreadsheets and email will be critical puzzle pieces for decades to come. Google and Microsoft are going head-to-head as they try to become the critical asset that every future company needs.
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As we continue the shift from 1-size-fits-all into a world where we bring our own puzzle pieces and get work done on our terms, innovative companies are developing products that specialize instead of trying to do everything.
Of course, there will always be the little voice in the back of the c-suite’s collective conscious that says: “If you don’t do X, someone else will and then they’ll do what you do, stealing your customer.”
Executives should silence that voice by looking at the plethora of tools that have succeeded by focusing on doing 1 complex task very, very well. They may offer additional, complementary services, but that isn’t the reason small- and medium-sized businesses choose to renew their software licenses every year.
Examples of task-focused software
Here are a few examples of the types of software that do 1 complex task extremely well. They may do other things, but their primary focus is solving a specific need.
Keap: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Starting in 2001 as Infusionsoft, it rebranded as Keap in 2019. Its nearly 2 decades of success comes from creating a platform that creates a seamless customer journey—from lead to conversion—for small businesses and solopreneurs. Its innovation and people-focused culture was recognized by Fortune Magazine in which it was ranked the 17th best medium workplace in 2011.
Hootsuite: Social Media Marketing Management
It seems like every month there’s a new social media platform trending. Managing branding, posts and interactions across different networks can mean an endless cycle of logging out, logging in, checking for updates and then logging out—only to start again later in the day. Hootsuite has dominated social media management for brands since its launch in 2008 by focusing on untangling social media and enhancing ROI for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Asana: Task Management for Teams
When more than 1 person is working to get a project across the finish line, communication can devolve into an endless chain of emails and instant messages. This means retrieving critical information takes more time and effort than it should. People fall out of sync. Asana launched in 2008 with the mission to make project communication easier and more effective—it has succeeded with more than 50,000 organizations utilizing its tools.
Launched in 1983, its Quickbooks software has become the gold standard for small- and medium-sized business accounting. It has expanded into other areas—payroll, tax filing, personal finance—but it has never taken its eye off the ball. By delivering tools that automate a hassle that every business deals with, it has grown into a Fortune 500 company with a market cap in the billions.
We live in a world where cookie-cutter, 1-size-fits-all solutions have gone the way of the dinosaurs—blown away by cloud-based solutions that specialize in their core competencies. Every employee is now faced with a DIY puzzle and the pieces they choose will decide who the enterprise technology winners of tomorrow will be.
About the author
M. Rafiq is the brain trust behind multiple ecommerce startups, and has become a thought-leader in the entrepreneurial space by providing wisdom and advice based on his decade of startup success. The digital age has opened opportunity to everyone, and M. Rafiq is passionate about providing opportunity to anyone willing to work both hard and smart. He’d like to thank Outreachxpert for its help with this article.