For small and midsize businesses, 2015 was the year of digital transformation, enabling SMBs to compete on the same playing field as larger enterprises. As we finish out the year, we thought we should gain insights about what SMBs can expect and prepare for in 2016.
SAP’s monthly TweetChat, #SAPSMBChat, is an interactive discussion on Twitter designed to help small or midsize business owners build a simpler path to growth. Our December TweetChat featured Sam Alkharrat, senior vice president at SAP, who is an expert in using technology for business transformation.
The topic for our December #SAPSMBChat was 2016 Predictions for the SMB. We focused the discussion on challenges SMBs might face in the new year, the technology to run more efficient businesses, and the role employees can play in a company’s success. Our co-host for the show was Brian Moran, an expert in entrepreneurship and navigating the SMB marketplace. Below is a transcript of our conversation with Sam.
SAPSmallBiz: What are the three biggest challenges facing small and midsize businesses in 2016?
Sam Alkharrat: The first challenge small and midsize businesses will face is growth. Every SMB dreams to grow and find its next wave of customers. The second biggest challenge will be funding. Small and midsize businesses need access to capital for growth and innovation, as well as to help extend their offering. A last challenge SMBs will face is people. Competition for top talent is stiff. There is a war on talent, both to retain and engage employees.
SAPSmallBiz: Is modernizing your business software going to be an accelerator to growth?
Sam Alkharrat: Yes, because in this day and age, small and midsize businesses are competing differently and need to evolve. Real-time analytics is essential to retain current customers and market to new ones.
SAPSmallBiz: How will the digital transformation help small and midsize businesses in 2016?
Sam Alkharrat: Digital transformation will make it easier for SMBs to interact and transact in the Digital Economy. Real-time insights and market trends give SMBs better access to key customer bases. Also, the digital transformation simplifies all the processes for an SMB.
SAPSmallBiz: Can cloud and mobile help small and midsize businesses run a more efficient business?
Sam Alkharrat: Cloud and mobile are the core essentials for SMBs to run a successful business. The key is to know when to embrace cloud technology – timing is everything. Small and midsize businesses need to make a foundation for future growth. Often, SMBs get stuck waiting too long, or for the “right” time.
SAPSmallBiz: How will millennial leadership affect the SMB landscape moving forward?
Sam Alkharrat: Millennials are creative risk-takers, who think differently than previous generations. To make a successful work environment, millennials need to collaborate with seasoned leadership. Millennial leaders need to invest in solutions that can grow their business.
SAPSmallBiz: How can SMBs use data to grow their business?
Sam Alkharrat: Everyone knows that data is important, but it’s what you do with it that is a differentiator. SMBs need to leverage data to be able to access wider markets. Success comes from combining data, channels, and a customized approach.
SAPSmallBiz: Do you think small and midsize businesses will go deeper into global markets?
Sam Alkharrat: When a small or midsize business has saturated the local market, it is time for them to go global. In order to expand their business successfully, an SMB must have a solid foundation.
SAPSmallBiz: How will the employees of an SMB help with growth?
Sam Alkharrat: Employees can help their business grow by doing social selling and being a brand advocate. They can also help by participating in the Digital Economy. In today’s business environment, employees need to represent their companies 24/7.
SAPSmallBiz: Will more SMBs embrace social media in 2016? Which platforms will shine?
Sam Alkharrat: Absolutely! Social media breaks down barriers and levels the playing field for SMBs. It’s imperitive for their growth to have a presence on social media. In 2016, there will be an increased focus on live-streaming technology, and focus on Twitter as a platform.
SAPSmallBiz: Lastly, what’s the one piece of advice you would give small and midsize businesses as we get ready to enter 2016?
Sam Alkharrat: My advice: Be digital, be bold.