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HP study reveals optimism among SMB owners

Some 60 percent of respondents see digital transformation as key with innovation in work processes, flexible work options and customized products and services identified as future strategies. However, cost effective solutions are required given cashflow remains top of mind and SMBs are unclear where to look or what such solutions are available. This is especially key where only 4 in 10 SMBs have a department or person responsible for innovation.

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Photo by Luke Chesser from Unsplash.com

HP Inc.’s latest study on SMBs in Asia-Pacific, “Survival to Revival”, surveying 1,600 SMBs across eight countries in Asia reveals over 50 percent of small-medium business owners expect not just to survive but thrive following the pandemic and feel that digital transformation will be a key part of this revival.

In response, HP is introducing integrated services-based print solutions including an HP Roam for Business bundle to make it easy to print on the go and enhanced HP SecurePrint a flexible, cloud-native solution that releases documents only to authorized users. 

Some 60 percent of respondents see digital transformation as key with innovation in work processes, flexible work options and customized products and services identified as future strategies. However, cost effective solutions are required given cashflow remains top of mind and SMBs are unclear where to look or what such solutions are available. This is especially key where only 4 in 10 SMBs have a department or person responsible for innovation.

“SMBs are the lifeblood of every economy in Asia but the pandemic has hit SMBs hard. As the engines of growth for Asia economies, it is critical for them to move past survival to revive their businesses,” said Ng Tian Chong, Managing Director, Greater Asia at HP. “This study provides us with the insights to provide practical help for SMBs so that they have access to an ecosystem of devices, tools and technology. With these resources, we want to help SMBs unlock innovation for customer and employee-centric experiences, as well as broadly upskill talent to rebound from the pandemic and prepare for the future.”

Completed in June 2020, the study surveyed across Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam found:

  • Companies most confident of bouncing back place high importance on digital adoption Across the region, nearly 60% view digital adoption as very important or essential. Indonesian SMBs are particularly sensitive to this need, with a full 74% believing it is essential or very important, as is Thailand, also at 65%.
  • Growth projections are significantly adjusted post pandemic. Across the region, 46% of SMBs expecting growth prior to the pandemic but that figure has dropped dramatically to just 16%. India and Vietnam are the most confident about post pandemic growth and Singapore, Japan and South Korea are least positive. 
  • Disruption to productivity is a common experience during COVID. Only 6% of SMBs recorded higher levels of workplace productivity compared to pre-COVID period while 43% recorded lower productivity.
  • Skills was identified as an issue: The pandemic amplified the lack of digital-first mindsets and skills within existing SMBs that hamper growth, affecting nearly half (44%) of respondents.
  • SMBs are unclear on where to look for assistance: Financial institutions rank high (31%); 60% of SMBs consider government support to be insufficient and/or are unclear on what support is available; only 19% of respondents turn to IT companies for help

A need for Talent

Underpinning all of this, is a need to identify digital talents who can help SMBs to transform the business. The majority of SMBs do not dedicate resources and/or invest in innovation as a discipline; it is more common to ask customers what they want, or simply mirror what the competition is offering. Only one in five SMBs have customized offerings, looked for new sales & supply-chain channels or introduced new lines of business.

In this respect, Indonesia (59%) and Thailand (51%) stand out for having the highest percentage of SMBs dedicating resources to innovation. Unsurprisingly, SMBs in Indonesia and Thailand are also most confident about business performance post COVID.

Services and solutions for SMBs

To support SMBs in adapting to new agile working environments, HP has introduced a suite of integrated services-based print solutions to enable SMBs to stay productive and effective no matter where they work. HP is now offering a one-year license for HP Roam for Business with a compatible HP LaserJet Pro 400-series bought by 31 October 2020, making it easy to print on the go from a mobile device and to retrieve the job touchless at any HP Roam-enabled printer within the company network

In addition, HP has enhanced HP SecurePrint which now supports all network types, including traditional networks behind a firewall as well as serverless print environments, helping customers simplify IT infrastructures. To empower workers the HP Workpath ecosystem, which enables workers to connect to cloud-based platforms directly from the Multifunction Printers (MFP), has expanded rapidly since it launched in November 2019, with 100+ apps available on the platform and thousands of apps deployed.

To meet the demands of the SMB worker’s multi-task, multi-place workday, HP PCs are designed to enable them to work anywhere when inspiration comes, giving them the performance that matches up to their creativity, and allowing them to collaborate seamlessly and effortlessly to bring their ideas to life

Security is a top priority in agile working environments. To ensure SMBs get ease of mind when working anywhere, HP is offering Sure Click Pro for free to all HP and non-HP Windows customers till September 30, 2020. HP Sure Click technology guards against malware, ransomware, and viruses embedded in email attachments or malicious websites.

HP is making it easy for SMBs to get their hands on the latest technology. Through initiatives like HP For Business in Thailand, HP has tailored a monthly subscription program with powerful devices with trusted security, and 24/7 technical support. The program helps relieve financial pressures on entrepreneurs in the short term and takes care of their IT management needs.

Continuous upskilling is critical for SMBs to revive and grow. The HP LIFE program offers free online self-paced training courses designed to help entrepreneurs and SMBs acquire new skills to grow their business, such as business communications, having a success mindset, social media marketing, and design thinking.

Methodology

In total, 1,600 SMBs completed the survey between 26th May 2020 to 7th June 2020, which comprised of 200 interviews in each of the markets: Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Only an Owner, Partner, Managing Director, CEO, COO, CFO, or a Director of a business with less than 200 employees qualified for the survey. Interviews were split evenly between Micro Business (<10 employees), Small Business (10-49 employees), and Medium Business (50-199 employees). Multiple industries were represented including Retail/Wholesale, Manufacturing, Professional Services, Healthcare, Education and Financial Services.

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Sticking with old technology can be a strategic move

As competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights.

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Technological innovation — especially disruptive innovation — is often heralded as the best strategy for a company. But new research published in Strategic Management Journal found that as competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights. While the rise of a discontinuous technology does pose a substitute threat to the old technology, it also further exposes niche segments where companies can gain a foothold with customers who favor the old technology.

The analysis by Xu Li, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, used archival data from the traditional Chinese medicine industry in China during the 1990s. In his interviews with managers in the field, he found that some chose not to innovate along with their competitors. In many cases, Li found these companies were performing well, if not sometimes better, by not making changes. Inspired by these conversations, Li chose to study under what conditions a firm may benefit from not innovating.

Li found some prior research on why companies would stick with older technology, but none explored why — during times of disruptive change in the market — sometimes firms are able to survive and even perform better within a small niche with old technology. What Li’s paper showed was that adhering to the old technology can, in some cases, be an effective strategy that ultimately improves firm performance.

The data showed a U-curve effect for traditional Chinese medicine firms that chose not to adopt new technology: The decline in performance began as a few competitors started launching a new technology, but later recovered and reached new heights as most competitors had adopted the new technology and exited the old technology market. But a lack of competition within the niche group of consumers who prefer older technology essentially gave these firms a monopoly within a smaller market as fewer competitors remained.

“Even though the new technology is often superior in terms of functionality, it doesn’t mean that every single customer or customer segment will be willing to move to the new technology,” Li says. “It’s important to understand what customers like about your product. We tend to assume that if a firm introduces something new, then customers must appreciate the new thing or the newness of the offering. But that’s not always true. The emergence of new technology can actually reveal people’s preference for something older.”

The research also refutes the idea that when the market is small, a company won’t perform better — but that depends on how many firms are still serving this niche. If only a few firms are left to serve this market, a company has far more power to charge higher prices among loyal customers with few other options.

“When you see a firm that is not actively innovating, we tend to believe the firm must be either incapable or is suffering — it’s always a bit of a negative tone,” Li says. “Sometimes staying with old technology might actually be a strategic choice, because by doing so it might also lead to better performance.”

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Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback

More people indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

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At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require “low self-disclosure” would work better, meaning ones that don’t require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level,” said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cai and her colleagues presented different online scenarios to a total of 439 people. The participants were first asked to imagine a restaurant where they had either good or bad service. Then they reported how willing they were to give the server compliments, or complaints, with either text or video on an AI-enabled tablet.

The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

The scenarios also had participants receiving a theoretical immediate or delayed reward to provide feedback, namely a 5% discount of their current meal or a future one. For complaints, the reward timing did not appear to make much difference, which the authors said was not surprising as people tend to be more highly motivated to complain than compliment.

For compliments, the researchers found an interesting connection: with more participants choosing the delayed reward over the immediate one. This may indicate that giving the compliment itself is its own reward as it makes the giver feel good, Cai said.

“It’s a good start to think about how to encourage customers to leave more compliments which could be very important for frontline employees. It could also be beneficial for the customers themselves,” she said.

Even complaints are important to encourage, Cai added. As her previous research suggests, restaurants and hotels should make it easier for customers to complain to them directly rather than go elsewhere to air their grievances.

“There have been episodes when customers were not afraid of posting angry videos on their own social media,” Cai said. “If restaurants and hotels can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before it goes viral online.”

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Ambitious workers park the office politics when employer is struggling, study suggests

Workers curb competition against competitors to unite against external rivals when employer faces either losing sector status or can improve reputation.

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Workers curb competition against competitors to unite against external rivals when employer faces either losing sector status or can improve reputation.

This is according to a study – “Revving Up or Backing Down? Cross-Level Effects of Firm-Level Tournaments on Employees’ Competitive Actions” by Patrick Hallila, Hans T. W. Frankort and Paolo Aversa – that appeared in the Academy of Management Journal.

The peer reviewed paper, which has been published on the website of the Academy of Management Journal, looked at riders who, systematically, adjusted their internal and external overtakes based on their team’s competitive threats and opportunities, as well as the resources available to those competitor teams.

“Sports – particularly motorsports – can be a good proxy for several other industries as they are extremely competitive: if you don’t perform and progress you may be out. Workers in sectors such as consultancy and financial services face similar pressures,” Frankort said.

This study linked the motorsports experience to other workplaces, particularly since earlier research has shown that employees compete to improve their relative standing in the eyes of their employer, in the hope of climbing the career ladder. Such behaviors may include poaching colleagues’ clients or even disrupting or sabotaging their work.

And yet this study suggests that ambitious workers tend to modify those behaviors when the standing of their organization is about to deteriorate or improve.

“Why? Because they see the standing of their firm as an important factor in deciding who to compete with to advance their career,” Frankort said.

“If the company has a chance to out-perform better-resourced rivals, employees’ workplace behaviour is geared towards being seen to be a key contributor to that success. For example, a salesperson might try to poach colleagues’ clients. However, if a firm is facing threats, such as losing market share to smaller rivals, workers may feel that infighting is poor form. Instead, they would focus on competing against rival firms. Inside the firm, individuals may simply want to blend into the background when their company is going through difficult times.”

The findings suggest, Frankort said, that employers can influence the nature of their employees’ competitive actions. For example, employers could highlight threats to the firm from underdog firms or its opportunities against bigger rivals.

The research also found that riders’ overtaking attempts were shaped by their contractual position with the team. For example, replacement riders – the MotoGP equivalent of agency workers – attempt more overtakes against teammates when the team is doing well and against all riders when the team is struggling.

The paper concluded: “It may be that replacement riders are keen to signal their skills relative to incumbents, hoping to secure a permanent contract.”

Riders whose contracts will not be renewed challenge their teammates on the track and are less likely to overtake riders from other teams – suggesting they feel detached from the team and even disgruntled with it.

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