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How SMEs Can Leverage Technology For Success

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Leverage Technology

Last week, we discussed Profiting From Nigerian Film (Nollywood). Today we have Olusegun Oyetunji, Lead Consultant and co-founder and CEO of DigiPrints 360 and he will be discussing how SMEs can leverage technology

Background

My background spans a decade of experiences across different industries – oil (procurement and accounts), banking, and telecommunications. I’m a project and training consultant who also does business advisory for SMEs. Digi360 is a new enterprise that leverage technology in it’s product offerings with some consulting by the side.

Technology is an enabler – to help your business move faster – and comes in different formats. Software, for example, or web technology is used every day by people in business. If an SME wants to streamline productivity, then it should leverage technology. The aim achieved in using these solutions is the improvement of productivity. There are even project management solutions in existence. The solutions can be free or pricey but, depending on one’s needs and business size, there is something for everyone.

How SMEs can leverage technology to improve business with little or no money

SMEs, based on their business plans and goals and objectives, can try to bring their offline activities online. My friend would use the term findability to describe making a business visible and easily found. A business in the retail space, for example, can leverage social media and other online platforms to make itself visible. Cloud solutions provide online solutions for SMEs to become efficient and more productive. For example, project management solutions like Asana. There are quite a plethora of these solutions.

There is something now called geek economy. This means that these days, because businesses are online, they can outsource their services to freelancers in places as far away as the Phillipines or even have distributed teams. This means that one can go to Upwork or Freelancer to hire someone in Ukraine to do some part of the business work or solutions to them. It is very rampant these days. People outsource a lot these days.

How to ensure the integrity of the freelancer or platform

There are various ways to do this. If one lacks experience in this area, first of all, we have to know that, as an entrepreneur, one has to try. This is about taking a certain small amount of risk. One can start small and test a service provider with, say, a 10- or 100-dollar project. Another check is with a service called Escrow which holds payment till task is completed satisfactorily.

Reviews are also important. If I need to get a job done, I will look at the reviews posted about freelancers. I will see the kind of reviews they have got and from whom. Platforms also have a ranking system that ensures only genuine people are featured. The platforms get commissions from these service providers so they have to make sure only authentic persons are featured.

Locally, people are starting to do this too. Facebook communities are good at this. In these communities, there are people called influencers. When one goes online to outsource a task, when posted on those communities, members will refer one to someone they have worked with and had tested and verified. That helps to an extent providing authenticity. One needs to venture in the first place. Of course, one might get burnt once in a while, but these are lessons ones learns to get better in this field.

How has working in technology-leveraging multinational (in this case ExxonMobil) shaped your career?

It has expanded my vision and made me see what is possible. For a multinational to expand to more and different territories, technology is major to ensure operations run smoothly and efficiently. Internet technology for example, helped me in ExxonMobil to sit at a place and process daily invoices even if the business headquarters was in Belgium. Same thing applies to working with someone in Houston. Some executives who started Exxon, Rockefeller and the rest, would not have even be able to expand into Africa and all. But because of technology, it is easy for companies to become multinationals and grow their businesses across continents. That is exciting. This made me know that the world is my space.

Can people in rural areas leverage technology too?

I see examples of this daily. Agriculture is typically associated with rural areas. The mobile phones can be used to get data on a farmer’s agricultural practices and processes. One could subscribe to an SMS service to get daily tips on one’s crops. These tips can be got even in local languages. When Dr Femi Adesina was the Minister of Agriculture, there was a move to eliminate the scam that was in that sector. Cellulant was launched for farmers’ use in interacting to make requests for fertilizers and information and deal directly with the fertilizer providers.

Rural dwellers can even listen to radio stations on their mobile phones, to get information to improve their businesses. The Chinese OEMS (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have made smartphones cheap so they are easy to purchase these days. Then a company like Facebook is even pioneering free basics where the social media company partners with telcos to get access to basic information even without internet data. Internet.org being pushed by Mark Zuckerberg is making sure that internet is getting into places where they are currently lacking.

Free solutions and services that new businesses can use

There a ton of them. But it is always important to identify the objectives of the business. There is a gap between SMEs who want to leverage technology but don’t know how and solution providers who want to give solutions or even take advantage of the ignorance of the SME. Then there are businesses who want to do these services on their own but then go overboard to spend money on services or solutions that they don’t need.

An akara frier/seller, for example, does not need to go building a website. He can open a Facebook page and instagram account instead. If really a website is needed, there is WordPress and its learning curve is simple. Linda Ikeji herself started on Blogger. There are free options to even build your own website yourself. Websites depend on the type and level and financial status of a business.

Keep It Simple

If however, the business already has social media pages, has traction with customers and products, and maybe now wants to start accepting payment on its website, then a decision can be made to build a website. One could go for a simple hosting service like Whogohost that gives a free domain name along with the hosting service. The business’s WordPress services can simply be installed on the domain. Social media plugins can be added with instructions that can be easily found on YouTube. (YouTube is about the largest school in the world.)

There are a couple payment solutions coming up every day. An example is Paystack. Another is Fluttewave or even Interswitch. These can be installed for free.

Lastly, before joining a platform, it is important to know one’s target audience and where they are most active. For example, I am a bit more active on LinkedIn currently (that will change in 2018) because my business model is more about business to business than business to consumer. My customers are more active on LinkedIn.

Join Us Next Week

This was live from Casablanca at ReDahlia Workspaces, 43B Emina Crescent, Off Toyin Street, Ikeja.

We are happy to give you a FREE tour of our facility anytime. Throughout the month of November, we will continue featuring guests on our Facebook live videos. So if you run a successful business and want us to feature you on our platform, then send us an email on contact@redahlia.com or give us a call on 08188122223. See you next week (interactive edition) on https://www.facebook.com/redahliaworkspaces/ for another informative session.

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