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IoT will propel small and medium businesses to the top of the digital economy: here’s how

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We all recognise the power brands in the global and local economies, but the real heart of commerce is as much about the medium and small scale enterprises as it is about the multinational giants.

Yet whilst the big names have been quick to adopt the internet of things (IoT) and recognise the benefits in terms of new products, services and efficiency, the mid-market has been slower to transform.

Research shows that adoption in the mid-market stands at 17% compared to 35% for the large enterprise. While these numbers are growing, it’s clear that many smaller companies remain reluctant to embrace IoT and use it to its full potential.

Despite this, in total over a third (34%) of businesses surveyed are using the technology, indicating that early adopters are now reaching maturity and that the time has never been better for the mid-market to digitalise through IoT.

Smaller business, bigger benefits

The mid-market has a lot to gain from IoT. As well as enabling new services and driving efficiency, the technology opens access to new markets and allows businesses to re-invent their relationship with customers.

This enables small to medium enterprises to take on a global stance and punch above their weight in an increasingly competitive market landscape.

Of those organisations in the sector that have embarked on the journey, 57% have already achieved success. But there is still a long way to go to match the adoption rate and the successes that are now common place in the multi-national sector.

So why the difference?

Research highlights that whilst they recognise the benefits, they also see the risks. Unlike larger organisations that can afford to evolve their digitisation strategy over time, smaller organisations needs to transform more swiftly and directly.

They simply do not have the capability, resources, finances or time to get it wrong. On the other hand, they can also see the disproportionately higher benefits that the smaller enterprise can extract from digitising around IoT.

Higher risk, higher reward

Digitisation is not a technology problem, it’s about business re-engineering. IoT plays a major role in how new services and processes are created and delivered, representing a key element in the success of any transformation programme.

Now, with the introduction of enablement platforms such as App Invent, the design and development of IoT applications becomes faster, more agile and cost effective. This is enabled by an eco-system of development partners with a single connectivity expert as the central point of contact.

For Vodafone Business customers, a single SIM opens access to 400+ networks, an ecosystem primed for multiple applications and the expertise of a provider with 86 million connections and counting.

Regardless of scenario, the mission is the same: to connect digital businesses to their customers and their products.

In this way, the risk of digitisation around IoT can be significantly reduced, allowing the smaller enterprise to move forward faster and with confidence.

But what about the cost?

Like almost every business, SMEs want to keep their overheads low. Faced with tight budgets they might be tempted to overlook the cost saving potential of IoT, deterred by the potential of a big initial outlay.

Yet interestingly, research highlighted that IoT adoption is driving average cost savings of 18% in those businesses that do adopt it.

This is clear proof that early adoption is a short-term investment with significant long-term value – an impact that could be especially important for businesses that don’t have the scale of larger organisations.

From this perspective, small businesses could look at IoT as a sensible step in addressing cost saving challenges as well as to drive digital adoption.

With the advent of application enablement platforms, co-creation becomes co-configuration; allowing organisations to start further up the learning curve.

Powering SMEs – today and tomorrow

From our ongoing partnerships, supported by research such as this, it is clear that companies who invest in IoT see tangible benefits. We can also see that the effects of IoT are significantly more pronounced in the SME space than with larger businesses.

This momentum is set to continue, especially when developer platforms can now simplify the process; speeding up integration and maximising return on investment.

When combined with 5G, these benefits will be available at a pace we haven’t seen before.

A reliable, super-fast connection is the ideal foundation for businesses – especially small businesses – to access the advantages offered by this technology and the data it offers. Cost saving, digitisation and customer service improvement: it’s all there for SMEs to utilise.

The next question is, who will be leading the pack?

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