Intelligent cloud: A new 'playing field' for SMEs in the digital economy?

THE business landscape has changed drastically since the 1980s when the big tech companies such as Huawei and Amazon first started out. Thirty years ago, new tech entrants had to compete with established industry players that were already well-equipped with resources such as manpower and robust IT infrastructure.

Today, new technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet-of-Things (IoT) have helped close the gap and address the challenges technology companies faced back then.

Besides higher agility, scalability and flexibility, nascent enterprises can now get their foot in the game much easier and faster.

Take the cloud, for instance. It requires less implementation time and costs significantly lesser. It does not end there for traditional servers and software as businesses would also need to invest more time and money in maintaining the system.

A survey by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) found that 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had reduced operating costs after deploying cloud; 57 per cent indicated less manpower was needed; 42 per cent experienced an increase in their revenue; and 70 per cent achieved their ROI (return on investment) within a year of implementation.

With resource crunch posing a common challenge to many SMEs, intelligent cloud adoption can help level the playing field for businesses to compete with their larger counterparts.

So, how can SMEs truly reap the benefits of the intelligent cloud?

Innovating through collaborations

The race to snap up talent between tech giants and SMEs is apparent as the more established players tend to attract talent with better incentives such as higher remuneration. With cloud, SMEs and startups can easily embark on collaborations and instead of going head to head with one another, they can tap each other's expertise to drive innovation and stand a higher chance in competing with the tech giants.

Within organisations, intelligent cloud will also help to free up employees' time to focus more on value-added services. Besides the automation of business processes such as duplicating information on different software, this next wave of computing also delivers real-time insights for critical decision-making.

Accessing business information on-the-go

The digital workforce today is burgeoning. Employees are no longer confined to the "cubicles" in their offices. They can now work wherever and whenever they want with their personal devices.

Despite the rise of digital technologies within the workplace, only a small handful (27 per cent) of Southeast Asian business leaders allow their employees to use their own hardware and/or software applications.

To foster a digitally enabled workplace, SMEs should consider implementing a highly secure cloud platform to allow employees to easily access and back up work-related documents regardless of their locations. Additionally, intelligent cloud deployment can also mitigate any potential cybersecurity risks as it takes a preventive approach instead of only reacting to threats when they occur.

Choosing applications that best fit their needs

In the past, businesses had to develop their processes around system constraints. With the recent rise in software and smart apps for various needs - from time management, to ride-hailing to analysing customer behaviour - SMEs can simply choose what suits their requirements the best. To do so, SMEs would require a secure and seamless platform to run their workloads.

Businesses should understand that cloud is not just a tool for large organisations. As the digital economy continues to grow, it is imperative for SMEs to hop on the cloud wave to stay relevant. That said, migrating to cloud is just the first step.

To reap the benefits of cloud, SMEs will need to consider how intelligent cloud can help streamline operations and achieve business goals, while also finding ways to cultivate a culture of innovation.

  • The writer is vice-president and managing director, Asia-Pacific and Japan, at Pivotal.