It's not easy being small. As anyone who was denied entry as a child to a theme park roller-coaster as a result of a 'You must be THIS tall to take this ride' sign can testify, life can seem so much simpler if you are larger and more mature. However, size isn't everything, and it's clear that there's such a thing as being small and perfectly formed, as many new businesses in this country would be keen to attest. Indeed, with the introduction of the UK's first Small Business Saturday, it's important to bear this in mind and remember the challenges that smaller, up-and-coming organisations have to face on a daily basis.
For many small businesses and start-ups, the principle challenge they face is, increasingly, to be able to find a way to bring their plans to fruition. Almost every start-up in the UK will be proficient at formulating creative, innovative ideas. These can range from identifying new ways of engaging with customers to planning how to make their supply chain more efficient. However, the truth is that many find difficulty in turning them into reality quickly and, as a result, struggle to stay ahead of the competition.
In a recent study conducted by market research firm IDG amongst SMEs in both Europe and the US, 60 per cent said that they were planning to adjust their business models over the next 18 months in order to stay ahead of competitors. What this demonstrates is that competition amongst smaller businesses is fierce, and that start-ups and SMEs are willing to use any and every tool at their disposal in order to get ahead. A tool that is becoming increasingly popular amongst organisations of this size is that of the business application.
Of course, it goes without saying that the increased presence of smartphones, tablets and laptops in our everyday lives has meant that using apps is now second nature to most of us in our personal lives.
However, small UK businesses are also starting to realise the part that applications can play in terms of improving efficiency and boosting productivity in their operations. The same IDG research also found that more than half of all SMEs questioned were already focusing on application initiatives that deliver agile, responsive business environments. Meanwhile, a further 54 per cent were planning to deploy additional business applications over the next 18 months with a view to increasing productivity.
There are a number of reasons why this approach has gained popularity amongst smaller businesses, but perhaps chief amongst them is that the barrier to entry for such applications is now so low. Whereas in the past, business applications might have been the sole domain of larger enterprises with deeper pockets, more staff and greater resources, the rise of rapid application development platforms has levelled the playing field considerably. The barrier to entry is lower, as a direct result - both in terms of the skills required, and also the cost.
For example, previously hard-core coders were required to build productivity-focused business applications. Now, the ease-of-use of these platforms means that anyone - regardless of their technical background - can create an application and tailor it to their needs. In turn, this means that the capital risk of a small business producing a successful application is much lower, which can make application development a much more attractive proposition for start-ups and smaller businesses.
Perhaps more importantly, application development platforms can help these smaller organisations turn their ideas into reality quickly. For many small businesses, speed is of the essence. Whether it's with a view to satisfying end-user demand or securing funding from an investor, time to market has become the measuring stick for SME success. The ability to turn an idea into reality more quickly than the competition by building fast, agile applications not only allows this, but also leaves greater resources available to spend on developing the business itself.
It's easy to think of the world of business applications as the sole preserve of larger organisations with infinitely greater resources available to them. However, by guaranteeing a lower cost of entry as well as greater agility, smaller businesses are now beginning to embrace the previously unreachable world of application development as a means of increasing their own productivity. Being a small player in a world dominated by giants may not always be an easy task. However, it's one that application development platforms are at least making much easier. In helping small businesses and start-ups to punch above their weight, these platforms could play a critical role in helping them to beat the competition and gain entry to the roller-coaster of business success.