The UK economy might have stalled recently on the road to recovery, but despite an overall lack of growth, the mid-market is one sector that is continuing to thrive under tough conditions. It isn’t true of all businesses, but those which have prepared themselves to cope with the demands of the modern marketplace are faring much better than those stuck in the past.
Growth is there; businesses just have to find the right strategy to achieve it. Recent Acora research (which polled 1,300 mid-market companies; those made up of 50-2,000 employees) showed almost a third of respondents are predicting growth of 20% this year.
It might sound an ambitious percentage, but with the right tools, IT strategy and organisational direction, this figure can be turned into reality. There are already plenty of businesses demonstrating effective strategies for meeting this aim and despite variation, all of them share three core similarities:
- They have the right strategy when approaching growth
- There is a focus on improving overall organisational efficiency
- They have positioned IT as a business imperative and are outsourcing accordingly
Avoiding stunted growth
The first step towards strong growth levels is to choose the correct channel to drive it – that is one of the biggest dilemmas facing mid-market businesses in 2013. When asked where they believed growth would come from (seeing as 50% stated they expect to grow this year), the highest percentage of respondents highlighted current sales channels as their major objectives.
This is in contrast to new services and products, or the merger / acquisition route. Senior management believed these avenues to be less effective when growing their business.
With this in mind, you would expect companies to focus their efforts on a single geographic region for a streamlined sales approach. Despite a turbulent home market, just as many businesses see international growth just as important as the domestic front.
Obviously for some this will prove the wrong decision, but if the infrastructure and leadership is in place to cope with demand, businesses can reap their desired rewards.
Having the desire for growth and correct sale cycles in place is one thing, and definitely the first step, but senior management must ensure their IT is scalable and flexible to meet the demands of expansion. There is no point pushing for growth, only for it to cripple a company’s IT services, revenue streams and customer base.
With the above threat considered, many forward-thinking mid-market companies are preparing for growth by strategically implementing IT to improve operational efficiency. Thankfully, at the same time outsourcing and remote IT providers are beginning to show their real potential for supporting organisation-wide change.
Businesses are now able to meet their computing demands with a level of speed and performance never experienced before. In the last thirty-six months, a radical change has swept across IT outsourcing.
Those providers with their fingers on the pulse have transformed themselves from static, transactional companies to symbiotic extensions of their clients. A business can only grow and flourish if it has the capability to do so; likewise, it can only achieve those aims with the right IT approach.
Companies need to be talking business objectives, not technology. They need to illicit the help of their outsourcing provider to correctly implement real cultural change – the technology will follow once a mid-market business has begun the path to better its IT’s utilisation.
One final area where the majority of mid-market businesses can better themselves isn’t with actual technology or implementation through outsourcing, but rather the way IT is strategically handled. In the same survey, a large percentage of those asked stated, that while they recognise IT’s change from support function to business imperative in recent years, it does not always have the representation it deserves at senior level.
With the borders between conducting business and the systems which support it ever blending closer together, this is a trend that has to change. CEOs and CFOs should not bear the brunt of an organisation’s computing infrastructure – they should certainly be involved in any discussions, but boards should have more experienced business focussed technologist C-level representation in place for IT.
Without it, even with the help of a competent outsourcing provider, budgets could overrun, timescales may go out the window and the business might end up having to spend increasing amounts of investment to rectify poor strategic direction.
Obviously, if a CIO or equivalent is ensuring the business’ needs are being vocalised and integrating with the rest of the C-level team, the company is in a much stronger position than a mid-market business which does not have the same support.
It should always be about dynamism – the marketplace is changing and businesses must have the agility in place to meet their customers’ needs as of when they change. This is the approach businesses should take to succeed.