SMBs benefiting from convergence of mobility, outsourcing, cloud: study

CloudsIf you’re a solution provider building out your cloud strategy, the good news is that nearly half of Canadian small businesses are today using cloud-based products and services. The bad news is, those who aren’t using it today probably won’t be using it tomorrow.

According to an Angus Reid survey commissioned by HP Canada of 1,005 Canadian small business owners, 47 per cent are using cloud-based solutions in their business, with the most popular options being remote Web-mail and messaging, remote security and storage, remote Web and video conferencing and remote applications.

But amongst those who are not today using cloud-based systems, a whopping 96 per cent of respondents are not looking at it as something they’re adding to their business mix in 2011.

Still, Leyland Brown, vice president of the commercial business for HP Canada’s Personal Systems Group, said there’s a unique opportunity brewing for small businesses based on what she described as the convergence of three major trends: mobility, outsourcing and the cloud.

“That intersection is going to change the role and behavior of organizations in Canada,” Brown said.

Outsourcing is at the heart of the opportunity Brown sees. As more and more large businesses look to contract out business processes including legal, human resources and beyond, small businesses are poised to pick up that business. Brown said 39 per cent of small businesses today are doing work outsourced to them from a larger organization. And Brown cited CIBC findings that small firms that receive outsourced work grow 61 per cent more than firms that don’t outsource.

Canadian organizations are particularly well suited for the role, Brown said, noting that Canada tied with Mexico for second place in best markets for U.S.-based business to outsource to, largely due to location and language. India, of course, leads the charge.

It connects with mobility and the cloud because of the flexibility those technologies offer, particularly as more small organizations embrace mobility and global competitions.

“As size and location matter less than expertise, small business in particular stands to benefit,” Brown said.

Brown said the opportunity for solution providers and vendors alike lies in helping smaller customers roll out technology that’s compatible with both their staff and the companies from which they’re taking on business, while larger organizations need to meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce as well as more outside independent contractors playing roles within the organization.

Solution providers may well see a shift away from customers acquiring infrastructure in face of leasing and pay-per-use options, as they ramp up and down the number of independent contractors with which they work based on demand.

“It gives them a chance to get to the challenges that face small business today,” Brown said.

Some other notes from the Angus Reid/HP survey:

  • 69 per cent of small businesses have connectivity outside their office environment. 59 per cent connect via their notebook or netbook and WiFi; 32 per cent use smartphones, and 21 per cent use laptops or netbooks with built-in cellular network connectivity.
  • 70 per cent of those with access to the network outside the network said it makes them more productive.
  • Top drivers for outsourcing opportunities include the expanded reach of the Internet and the growth in numbers, quality and accessibility of online collaboration tools.
  • 70 per cent believe it’s acceptable for staff to use a company device for non-work related activities, but female owners are more likely than male owners to give the thumbs up to social networking access on company notebooks or netbooks.
  • 79 per cent said offering a “flexible working environment” is a differentiator in their efforts to attract and retain employees and to balance work and personal commitments.

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