3 ways SMBs can speed innovation through cloud

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By Shivanand Biradar

Innovations in technology and business processes are essential for the “hockey stick” model of growth that is desired by small and big businesses worldwide.

Many people think of Picasso as the world’s greatest innovator. I once read that he often bought or borrowed ideas from several places and stitched them together to make his own, which he would then turn into a product that would make his audience drop their jaws in amazement!

Speed Innovation Through CloudSmall and medium businesses (SMBs) should do exactly what Picasso did, and with cloud computing, innovating is now easier than ever. So let me provide a list of the three things SMBs need to do and discuss how they can do it in cloud.

1. Buy or borrow ideas

Tap into the big data world. There is a tremendous amount of unstructured data that contains a significant amount of vital information essential for your business.

Subscribe to software as a service (SaaS) on cloud, listen to your clients and identify what your clients and your competitors’ customers are saying about the products. Understand their needs. Their needs will give you ideas. Many times you may find that someone has already listened to those needs and formed an idea. Identify such folks and team up with them, and collaborate to build a product or service around that idea.

Sometimes you might find that someone has already built a product or service around the idea you are still working on. Buy or borrow it from them, team up with them and refine the product. You can then release a second version of the product in partnership with those who released the first version. Your competitor’s customers who have bought version one can either buy your second version, or can supply good publicity through word-of-mouth for your version.

To achieve this you need to leverage big data and subscribe to social media listening tools. All of this is totally affordable for SMBs because of cloud computing.

2. Stitch the ideas together

Once you have identified ideas, you want to stitch them together and make a compelling product. You need to be really fast in this phase, because social media listening tools are affordable for everyone, so others are listening too.

Platform as a service (PaaS) can be your best friend. PaaS has all the tools that developers need to help you build a product or prototype quickly. PaaS is so exhaustive that your developers may never approach your procurement team to buy a license for that one extra tool to build or test.

Collaborating with a competitor on one single idea can be easy and effective. Together you could speed up product development and testing to unprecedented levels. PaaS gives you the opportunity to collaborate and speed up your time to market.

If you are not in a web or software space, you still can use PaaS to design your products. There are several 3D modeling tools available on cloud. If you are in a services space, you can use PaaS to develop mobile apps or games to spread awareness about your services.

In short, PaaS is inevitable. Explore it now while the cost of opportunity is less, and use it a lot in the future.

3. Launch your product and follow it up with several re-launches

While your product is being built and tested, take a mobile first approach or adopt a social strategy to create hype for your innovation.

Identify social influencers who address the entire segment of your customers, launch the beta version to them, and request that they share their experience with your innovative product. Several of these social influencers can together create a buzz for your product, and that can help to increase subscriptions when you re-launch your product to all of your customers.

It’s often said that “nothing pulls in a crowd like a crowd.” So build a dashboard around initial subscription, identify how many customers come from which regions, what demographics they comprise and what industries have bought your product. Put these data points in front of a larger audience through your traditional marketing media. This can lead to wonderful traction and movement for your product.

If you are new to cloud, SaaS or PaaS, collaborate with your competitors. They may buy your ideas and act fast because they’re also listening to the same social media and doing the same big data analytics as you are.

If mobile first and social strategy is new to you, you could outsource it as a business product as a service (BPaaS). And if building mobile apps or games is a little too complex for your team, you could get that done by bigger IT players.

Everything your small or medium business needs—even things you might not initially consider—can be executed for you or available to you in whatever length you want and in an affordable and transparent way.

IBM offers most of the services mentioned above. IBM products, services and teams can help your SMB innovate and achieve the hockey stick growth you want.

Have you used any of these methods in your SMB? I’m interested to hear your experiences. Leave a comment below to get the conversation started.

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