18/09/2014 07:07 BST | Updated 17/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Smartphones = Smart SMEs

For most of us, our smartphones have become the equivalent of our modern swiss-army knives. Had your bank card stolen? Arrange emergency cash through your banking app. Missed the last train home? Book a taxi via Hailo. Lost? Use your GPS-enabled map.

But we all spend an increasing amount of time at work - so are phones as beneficial to work life as to personal life? Can they help businesses, particularly small businesses, increase productivity?

Clearly, there's a strong desire to access consumer-friendly tools that provide instant communication, and globalisation, collaborative working and employee mobility are all coming together for businesses of every size to create a requirement for employees to be able to work effectively from their phones.

This is particularly true when it comes to the UK's small businesses. SMEs are typically more nimble than their large counterparts and are often early adopters of technology, especially technology they have experienced in their personal lives, and as a result, this market is particularly ripe for advanced, work-specific mobile business solutions to develop and come to market.

Free consumer apps, like WhatsApp or Google Hangouts, are great gateway tools for SMEs. And while they offer good communication functionality, core business activities, like financial reporting, still mean reverting to a desktop-type device. As they grow, SMEs require additional features that will really enable them to not only communicate instantly but to truly run their business from their phones.

SMEs today are now in search of those apps and systems that don't just help them work, but can actually form the backbone of their business, from closing sales to answering complex customer queries and doing payroll. By providing real-time access on the move to the same resources and information employees have at their desks, this new wave of business apps can offer true competitive advantage.

For example, with mobile CRM and business process apps, sales teams no longer have to wait until they are at a computer to send over the paperwork to close a sale. Today, they can access, sign, and process a deal straight from their mobile device.

However, for multi-tasking business people to be able to effectively use all the applications and data they require to really run their business from their phones, they need an interface that aggregates them all, yet is also simple to use. They need a platform that brings together sales, customer service, marketing, finance and HR apps into a single, streamlined portal on their phones.

For most SMEs the large technology budgets that corporates enjoy are the stuff of dreams. Fortunately thousands of cost-effective, mobile business apps are being developed today - many designed specifically with small businesses in mind - which will integrate onto a single, cloud-based platform. These apps will deliver competitive advantage at an affordable price to SMEs, helping to level the playing field between large and small businesses.

Our reliance on our phones isn't going away - in fact, for SMEs, they might help level the business playing field by leveraging the agility of the small business with the enterprise-level tools - right in their pocket.