The world as we know it has been disrupted by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 and the infectious disease caused by it (COVID-19). Since the beginning of this year, millions of people across most countries have been infected by it despite nation-wide lockdowns and other drastic measures.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be fully understood for years to come, but it’s already clear that it has sent shockwaves through local economies around the world, hitting the hardest their most vulnerable members: small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
SMBs represent approximately 90 percent of all global companies, and, in the United States, they account for 48 percent of jobs and 43.5 percent of the country’s GDP. Alarmingly, 80 percent of SMBs have experienced slower sales since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and they’ve also been dealing with major supply chain disruptions and staff shortages.
Due to their limited resources, many SMBs wouldn’t be able to survive another wave of COVID-19 (which could arrive in the fall, according to some experts). To survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, they need to rethink the way they operate and reshape their business models to reflect the new reality, the reality of social distancing.
Embracing Digital Transformation
Even though IT budgets worldwide are expected to decline by 2.7 percent in 2020, according to data from IDC, a survey of more than 100 IT managers conducted by OpsRamp suggests that digital transformation has become the top business priority of small and medium-sized businesses.
“Despite the volatile economic environment, 73 percent of IT operations and DevOps teams expect to either accelerate or maintain digital transformation spending through the global pandemic,” states OpsRamp.
The reason why so many SMBs are suddenly embracing digital transformation is simple: they can’t afford to operate locally and inefficiently anymore. In the post-COVID-19 world, all businesses need to have some kind of online presence and the right tools in their digital toolboxes.
Key Digital Transformation Tools
Digital transformation is about using modern digital technologies to improve processes and solve problems. As such, there’s not just one digital transformation path SMBs can take—there’s an infinite number of ways digital technologies can be applied to modify business processes, culture, and customer experiences in order to meet changing market requirements.
That said, there are some digital technologies all SMBs should consider when embarking on a digital transformation journey:
- Voice over IP (VoIP): Effective communication is an essential prerequisite for business success. In the post-COVID-19 era, it’s likely that many customers will keep avoiding face-to-face interaction, preferring to discuss things over the phone instead. A VoIP system allows businesses to make and accept voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular phone line. It provides superior scalability, security, and support for many enterprise-level features, such as automatic voice transcription and call distribution.
- Cloud services: For most SMBs, it’s not cost-effective to maintain on-premises systems anymore. By embracing the cloud, they can reduce their IT costs, enjoy superior scalability and business continuity, collaborate more efficiently, and spend more time focusing on their core business. SMBs that migrate to the cloud can give their employees the ability to work from anywhere, and they can rest assured, knowing their data is in a secure data center.
- Data analytics: SMBs that decide to step on the path to digital transformation quickly find themselves generating large quantities of data that can be analyzed to inform critical decisions and automate important processes. The technology that makes it possible to relatively easily analyze large data sets produced by SMBs is readily available, and its benefits are well worth the initial investment.
With these and other digital transformation tools, SMBs can streamline their operations and enable remote working to better face the challenges of the post-COVID-19 world.
Security Must Come First
For any digital transformation journey to be successful, it’s paramount to invest heavily in information security. Any increase in the number of endpoints with access to important business data makes it more likely for a data breach to occur, and remote employees face far more threats than those who are sitting behind a company firewall and spam filter.
Opportunistic cybercriminals were among the first to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, launching massive social engineering and malware campaigns aimed at organizations of all sizes. While large enterprises are lucky enough to have the resources necessary to keep their workforce both flexible and secure, SMBs can rarely afford to employ skilled cybersecurity professionals who can help them react to emerging cyber threats in real-time.
Managed Security Services Help SMBs Post COVID-19
The good news is that SMBs don’t have to hire cybersecurity talent in order to keep cybercriminals at bay. They can partner with a provider of managed security services and instantly enjoy the most advanced, comprehensive security solutions available.
A capable provider of managed security services knows how to prevent the multitude of endpoints, both local and remote, from exposing sensitive data or becoming the hosts for dangerous malware. Other components of a robust managed security service include patch management, multi-factor authentication, data loss prevention, employee security awareness training, and secure remote working (VPN), just to name a few.
With managed security services, SMBs can enjoy a flexible and dynamic approach to cybersecurity that allows them to thrive post COVID-19.
In the span of just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the operations of many small and medium-sized businesses, forcing them to fight for their survival. While thriving in the post COVID-19 world will certainly be a challenge for many, today’s technology can help overcome it—businesses just need to embrace it. SMBs that want to maintain and even improve their ability to compete for customers shouldn’t wait for the next wave of COVID-19 to arrive and then figure out what to do. They should proactively embark on a digital transformation journey and be ready for whatever the future holds.