The ambitions of small and midsize businesses are nothing short of captivating. With a beautiful combination of speed, know-how, and flexibility, these companies often accomplish goals that are bigger and bolder than those of their largest rivals.
I recently met with three such companies at a panel discussion at the SAPPHIRE NOW conference. It was a diverse mix: a software development company, a robotics startup, and a nonprofit organization. But they all share a strong sense of purpose and a passion for customer satisfaction. And like many small and midsize organizations, sustaining growth for the long-term is one of their biggest challenges.
Innovate to grow: Three companies share their secrets
Our discussion that day zeroed in on that challenge and how to overcome it. We shared our stories, and from it came what I believe are three pieces of critical advice. Here are three “secrets” from the panel on how to push your business, sustain your growth, and deliver on your purpose.
Look for sophistication without complexity
It’s entirely possible to become technologically sophisticated without adding the burden of complexity that can hinder large enterprises. How? Invest in simplicity and sophistication while you are growing.
Use your data to make progressively superior decisions. It’s not merely about having a few intelligent applications, but about bringing intelligence to the entire process. For example, while the goal of an individual application might be to send data, the goal of an intelligent enterprise is to share data across the full spectrum and act on it fast.
Kris Cowles is vice president of global application IT at TopCon Positioning Systems, a software development company focused on helping construction companies and farmers address the housing, infrastructure, and food needs of 9 billion people by 2030. She says TopCon and its retailers need the high availability, scale, and best practices that come with large enterprise systems. But they don’t want the complexity and overhead of being tied down to big corporate systems. “Having a digital solution with the scale and best practices that tie into our master data strategy and analytics strategy is crucial,” she said.
Choose a partner with the right capabilities now to avoid straining your resources
A common concern for growing businesses is the time, effort, and money required to implement new technology. Organizations are typically staffed just enough to handle customer-facing needs and basic operations.
This was the case for Franka Emika. The German robotics startup wants to shape a world that brings safety, convenience, and efficiency to our homes, offices, and factories. When the emerging business realized it needed an ERP system as well as a wide variety of applications, there was apprehension about undergoing an on-premises deployment.
“I didn’t want a two-year, on-premises deployment while my business was still fragile,” Dr. Simon Haddadin, co-founder and CEO of Franka Emika, reflected. “Luckily, our partner helped us find the right cloud environment and got it up and running in three months.”
Instead of tying up working capital in a single technology that wouldn’t have added value to the business for years to come, Franka Emika worked with a trusted partner to determine and implement the digital capabilities it needed in that moment. The business also plans to add new functions as its operations require them, scaling its solutions as product development and critical business strategies evolve.
Consider unconventional technology solutions to support your unique business model
Occasionally, I come across a growing company with a one-of-a-kind business model, offering, and structure. It can be difficult for them to find the right solution designed specifically for their needs. But with ingenuity, creativity, and an open mind, it is possible to adopt large-enterprise digital capabilities with competitive scalability, pricing, and deployment speed.
Step Up for Students is a terrific example. This Florida-based nonprofit provides millions of dollars in scholarship money to help low-income and special-needs students pay for private school tuition, textbooks, enrichment curriculum, and more. Most people wouldn’t connect “procurement” with a nonprofit with a mission like theirs. But they did.
Step Up for Students deployed a cloud-based procurement solution to operate and manage its entire organization. Historically, the nonprofit followed a reimbursement model, an approach that proved to be unsustainable. It didn’t make sense for the organization to hire people to review and process receipts and for families to spend money when they can least spare it.
Once they implemented the procurement solution, everything clicked into place. “We can now scale our scholarship program,” said Jonathan Beckham, vice president of technology strategy and innovation. “We can put controls in there, whitelist products, create our own catalogs, set policy rules, and evaluate our performance through reporting.”
How will your business thrive in today’s competitive markets? Will you run your business with innovative strategies and enabling technologies that are helping companies such as TopCon Positioning Systems, Franka Emika, and Step Up for Students maintain their growth trajectory?
It’s never too late to start streamlining your operations and take advantage of new opportunities to fulfill your unique purpose. Watch the replay of “Innovate to Grow and Become a Best Run SME Business” to learn more.
For a first-hand view into SAP solutions for small and midsize businesses, visit www.sap.com/sme.