By Dumisani Moyo, Head of Mid-Market: Southern Africa at SAP
Mid-sized companies tend to suffer more than their larger counterparts in tough economic times. The current state of disruption caused by COVID is no exception.
In such times, the ability to see a business as an interconnected and coherent system is invaluable.
A business is made up of a web of intricate relationships between customers, employees, suppliers and a multitude of processes that all need to work and function together in harmony.
In order to fully understand the nuanced relationships between the different parts of the business, companies need to leverage data-driven technologies and approaches.
This enables mid-sized companies to respond to a dynamic business environment, the ever-changing needs of customers and employees, as well as optimise relationships and processes to facilitate greater efficiency and collaboration, both inside and outside the company.
SMEs turn to emerging technologies
A recent study by Oxford Economics and SAP into mid-sized companies revealed that increasing numbers recognise the value of prioritising technologies such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
These technologies are crucial to enhance the ability of mid-sized companies to remain competitive in tough times, improve their agility, increase visibility across all parts of the business, and develop close relationships with customers, employees and suppliers.
Before companies can become data driven and make credible insight-driven decisions, they need to start by gaining the confidence of the primary users of information, their employees.
To become true data driven organisations, mid-sized companies need a strong IT infrastructure that ensures that the data is accurate, complete and can be seamlessly and securely shared across functions and teams, including externally to customers and suppliers.
This is a significant step towards building a data driven mindset amongst employees and to foster collaboration, transparency and predictability.
How to build data infrastructure that employees want to use
1. Make it easy-to-use for better, faster decision making
Mid-sized companies can leverage advances in technologies such as natural language processing, machine learning and predictive analytics to build out scenarios and predict future outcomes.
This can aid decision making and provide a competitive advantage against others in the marketplace.
Previously, such capabilities were only accessible to larger companies that could afford expensive deployments and specialised skills.
This is now within the reach of mid-sized companies as well.
2. Bring data management and analytics together
Reducing complexity should be a key consideration when deciding on IT systems.
Bringing together data management and analytics not only reduces costs, but also drives efficiency and makes data processing and the extraction of insights in real time possible.
This also goes a long way towards promoting the seamless sharing of data and collaboration with external partners, for example, the ability to integrate a company’s operational data with that of external suppliers to improve efficiencies in the manufacturing process.
3. Embed enterprise-class analytics to give a full view of the business
Mid-sized companies now have access to embedded analytics without the need to use multiple applications, enabling them to have a holistic view of the business.
This capability combines the power of business intelligence, augmented analytics, and predictive analytics into one application, contributing to increased productivity, efficiency, and collaboration across different functions and teams.
When all is said and done, the ability to connect every function in the business through data is a unique differentiator that mid-sized companies desperately need to level the playing field and to compete more aggressively with their larger peers.
From improved customer outcomes, to empowered and satisfied employees, the benefits of efficiently leveraging data insights can fuel sustainable growth for mid-size companies.