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SMBs innovate at the edge to address business challenges

Research findings show the challenges SMBs face and why they’re turning to edge computing to solve them.

By Compute Experts guest blogger Anurag Agrawal, Founder and Chief Global Analyst at Techaisle


Small and mid-sized businesses are committed to improvements in many areas of their operations: expanding their market reach, improving productivity, reducing costs, managing uncertainty, and increasing control over their operations. Simultaneously, SMB executives understand the real-world constraints of limited resources, exacerbated by limits on physical “business as usual” processes and interactions.

In pursuit of balancing needs against constraints, SMBs are embarking on a digital transformation journey to build the foundation for digital business. The journey is a multi-stage process involving:

  • Digitization of paper documents and manual tasks
  • Digitalization of processes—accomplished by systems that connect new IT-enabled tasks, assets, and workers in ways that deliver greater productivity and reduced cycle times
  • Building a digital business foundation that unlocks innovation across the organization 

Two-thirds of small (1-99 employees) and one-third of midmarket (100-999) firms are still in the early stages of this journey. But the challenges of the “next normal” economy are driving SMBs to find ways of accelerating their digital evolution.

Amid the pandemic, research firm Techaisle interviewed 1,480 SMBs. These organizations provided perspectives on business challenges and outlooks and how IT is addressing constraints and enabling growth. One of the survey's key outcomes was a prioritized list of the challenges that SMBs are facing. Each entry reflects a challenge that is critical to business success.

Critical business challenges faced by SMBsCritical business challenges faced by SMBs

The outcomes that edge computing enables apply to all SMBs. Research findings show that it addresses the critical business challenges highlighted earlier: improved controls help SMB executives to manage uncertainty, increased agility supplies the means of responding to requirements and opportunities, and contributions to new product development, cost reduction, and improved productivity and revenue growth connect edge innovation with coveted business results.

One of the essential characteristics of edge computing, though, is that it provides two different sources of business benefit: it empowers distributed work, and it enables various kinds of organizations to use technology in ways that align with specific business needs, opportunities and characteristics.

How SMBs are using edge computing

Research shows that SMBs believe that edge computing delivers significant business benefits: improved customer experience, cost efficiencies, revenue growth, better productivity, and streamlined internal business processes. Spurred by these goals, SMBs are beginning to use edge solutions to facilitate collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers, and customers; for supply chain visibility, asset tracking, and cost efficiencies; and for objectives as diverse as patient tracking and location-based marketing.

Edge provides real advantages in every context where workers and suppliers/customers benefit from distributed, collaborative environments—and as the world learned with the pandemic, every business has a requirement to enable distributed work and collaboration. 

Effective edge architectures and planning address some of the most pressing IT challenges faced by SMBs. Effective edge deployments enhance customer experience by ensuring that employees are available to support them—wherever the employee's location—and that corporate systems, updated through central file management and accessed through high-capacity networks, deliver consistent, correct information at the time that it is needed. Well-designed edge solutions manage security, protecting users, customers, and corporate data. And edge systems future-proof the IT foundations supporting SMB businesses, modernizing resources used in turn to support new distributed work capabilities.

How SMBs are deploying IoTHow SMBs are deploying IoT

The chart above illustrates the current SMB deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT), an edge solution. It shows that these automated systems are primarily used in security or surveillance applications and provide proactive alerts to help operators of various systems identify issues requiring immediate attention. SMBs are also using IoT systems to reduce inventory levels, track assets, and other types of tracking applications, including customer, partner, or supplier transactions. Most of these examples center on M2P, or “machine to person,” communications, and narrowly target industrial or physical-goods environments. In the future, SMB IoT implementations will increasingly focus on M2M (machine to machine) communications and applications, and the uses of IoT will continue to expand. At the same time, edge itself is extending well beyond the bounds of IoT to support remote workers and integrated multi-location collaboration—and it, too, will extend business reach into new areas.

SMBs that innovate today do not just gain advantages in terms of current-year growth—they are also creating future-ready environments that will sustain their businesses through changing economic tides.

Here’s a quick guide on why you must expand your digital foundation to the edge and where to start.

Learn more about HPE edge computing solutions

Meet our Compute Experts guest blogger Anurag Agrawal, Founder and Chief Global Analyst at Techaisle

Anurag_Agrawal_v2.jpgWith over 30 years in the industry, Anurag Agrawal is the Founder and Chief Global Analyst at Techaisle—a global leader in SMB, midmarket, and channel partner research and industry analysis. Previously, Anurag headed Gartner’s Worldwide Research Operations. He began his analyst career with IDC. Frequently referred to as SMB Guru, Anurag Agrawal is a prominent industry analyst and is one of the top 10 analysts to follow in SMB, midmarket, and channel partner segments. An intense analytical blogger, Anurag specializes in developing go-to-market strategies, writes and advises senior executives on the cloud, routes-to-market, emerging technologies, and industry dynamics. He consults with senior executives on developing their channel and market strategies based on data collected from market research.

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