There’s no denying the profound impact COVID has had on the business environment – with organisations forced to review their business models to ensure that, moving forward, they remain sustainable, relevant and profitable. Whilst none are technically immune, the most resilient businesses haven’t viewed COVID as a barrier to growth – they’ve viewed it as an opportunity to re-evaluate the very fabric of how their businesses function – with technology being the key enabler of future growth.
I’m Tom – founder of Urban IT Support. We provide IT Support, consultancy and technology to small and medium-sized businesses across England – particularly in Yorkshire. Founded in 2012, we’ve rapidly grown from merely providing IT Support to small businesses – through to delivering a comprehensive set of technologies that enable and support firms to grow, boost productivity, and ultimately become more profitable. As a second-year student on the University of Cambridge MSt in Entrepreneurship programme, it’s been fascinating to hear the different insights into how businesses are adapting to a post-COVID world, and we’ve been listening and using this knowledge to shape and refine our own business model.
For us, adapting to COVID meant re-evaluating our core product portfolio – ensuring it was dynamic and responsive enough to meet emerging needs and demands from employers – including working from home, reduced staffing, and an ongoing need to control spending. It was clear from day-one that if businesses are going to have any realistic chance of survival, the role of technology would be absolutely critical, and for us, this opened a host of new opportunities. In mid-March, a typical incoming phone call went something like “I need my employees to work from home, access their computers & phones, and stay connected to each other – and I need it today”. The need for organisations to swiftly respond meant technology projects that typically took months to roll-out would be needed in days. So, we designed a pre-packaged suite of ready-made products and tools that were quick to deploy, reliable and, most importantly, straightforward to use.
For employees needing to access their office computers, our hosted-desktop package enabled workers to work on their Windows desktop and access applications from any location – just like they were in the office, with minimal training and quick installation. Cloud technologies provided access to key documents, e-mails and calendars – with subscription-based products removing the need for high initial capital investment. The average office worker produces thousands of sheets of paper, so tools to go digital and paperless reduces costs and improves accessibility, whilst real-time co-authoring allows multiple employees to work on and edit documents at the same time. Staying connected to your team, regardless of location, remains undeniably critical in keeping them engaged and motivated, and, more importantly, in supporting their mental health and well-being. So, we pushed collaboration and video-conferencing tools to allow face-to-face virtual meetings, team chat and instant messaging. And for those with office phones, we arranged VOIP solutions that automatically redirect calls over the internet straight to their home – with no complex wiring or long-winded network upgrades. Finally, for our retail customers without an online presence, we set up online eCommerce selling platforms with integrated checkouts and inventory management – allowing them to continue trading even whilst their physical premises were shut.
We were fortunate to receive grant-funding through the Santander Universities programme – and without this, there’s no way we could have offered such a comprehensive package of tools. In a way, the funding didn’t just support our growth – it ultimately indirectly helped businesses from across the SME spectrum through enabling more businesses to access our packages and support. Equally, the mentoring and knowledge gained through the MSt in Entrepreneurship underpinned everything we did – providing unique access to critical skills and insights from some of the world leading academics and fellow entrepreneurs.
Looking ahead, I think it’s clear that working patterns have fundamentally and permanently changed. For us, we see technology becoming less of a business facilitator, but more of a business driver – providing tools and capabilities that swiftly allow businesses to strategically respond to changing market needs, and develop new competitive advantages. This means using technology to open up new markets and commercial opportunities – from delivering quicker innovation through predicting and simulating product design, automating processes to make them more efficient, or through improving worker productivity with real-time document reviewing. To find out more, and have a chat about how we can help your business, visit our website.