Agility – the new rocket fuel for today’s SMBs

How Microsoft Teams is helping small businesses stay nimble

Moving an idea quickly from conception to execution before the competition has always been critical to staying ahead of the curve – especially in the innovation-led small business landscape.

But delivering at speed is no longer a guarantee of business success. The unpredictable nature of the past few years, plus the current high inflation and slowing growth environment has highlighted that it is equally important to be able to pivot at pace.

So how can you ensure your culture, teams and tech are as agile as they need to be to meet constantly changing demands? Here are our top tips for harnessing the power of technology to stay nimble and maximise new opportunities – from concept to rollout – when they come along.

Facilitate easy, instinctive conversations

The best ideas come out of flowing, natural conversations, so make sure you’re giving your teams the communications channels that enable them to have these throughout the day. For the price of a single coffee (£3), you can equip each of your team with Teams Essentials and give them access to unlimited chat, Teams meetings and video calls – all of which offer more instantaneous communication for creative decision-making than stop-start email ping pong.

Enable hybrid collaboration

There’s an energy and creativity that comes from seeing your teammates in person and bouncing ideas around together. But now, more often than not, work colleagues can be sitting in multiple locations at any one time.

Ensure your teams can easily come together whenever the need for creativity strikes. With Teams meetings your team can all see each other, work on docs together, share instant virtual reactions to ideas and even create breakout rooms to hold mini brainstorms within a wider meeting.

Keep up the pace

Once you’ve got an idea you’re happy with, make sure you can roll it out as quickly as possible – before your competition does. Connecting your teams with shared files that are always available will help keep ideas and progress flowing.

With Microsoft 365 for Business, you can get 1 TB (terabyte) of cloud storage, enabling shared live docs to be accessed across all devices. Combined with Teams, it makes it easy for your team to work together in real time or in their own time to sustain project momentum.  

Facilitate each of your team to find their ‘groove’

As any Olympic team knows, peak team agility is reached when you enable individuals to work in their own optimum way. Some of your team might be morning people; others might be evening people. But that doesn’t have to slow the pace.

With live docs always available through Teams, your team can work synchronously or asynchronously on projects to collectively drive a project forward. They can even share recordings and transcripts of Teams meetings so that everyone is fully up to date on a project’s status even if they’re unable to attend.

Every second counts

When you’re working flat out on a project, every second really does count. By choosing a tech solution that brings everything together in one place you can cut down on time-intensive app and platform swapping.

It might seem like a minimal consideration, but think how long it takes to come out of one account to access another and then multiply that out over several times a day. Over the course of a year, platform swapping can amount to days’ worth of lost creative time. But on the flip side, if you make that time up by using a single seamless solution, it could be what gives you that all-important competitive edge.

Collaborate with confidence

There’s no point in doing innovative work on a sector-leading project if your system is in danger of being hacked and your ideas stolen. Prevent the risk of a security breach from phishing or ransomware which can derail progress by protecting yourself with robust security that works across your systems.

Microsoft Defender offers sector leading ‘press and play’ security, with 24/7 human and AI analysis of trillions of signals and automatic checking of URLs, files and attachments in real time, to disable threats before they take effect.

Choose a platform that scales with you

When you’re a business that is growing fast it’s key to choose a platform that can flex to meet your changing needs so you can maximise opportunities as they present themselves.

Clifton Coffee Roasters are a case in point. Their in-person coffee masterclasses were once a cornerstone of their business but dried up overnight during lockdown. Fast-forward a couple of years and what could have broken their business has made them thanks to their ability to pivot and thrive.

Today, they have supplemented their in-person masterclasses with Teams-based masterclasses that reach geographically far wider, larger audiences, thanks to the ability to host everything from one-to-one meetings to interactive webinars using Teams.

In fact, using Teams, Clifton Coffee Roasters have been able to reach 20 to 30 times more customers than they could in person, which has in turn given them a strong enough customer base to launch a thriving coffee subscription business – unimaginable just two years ago. Clear evidence of the positive gains you reap from being agile.

Be nimble, but stay true to your roots

While being able to change course to respond to new needs and challenges is important, staying true to your core mission is equally vital.

Priority Bicycles in New York offer a great example of how to adapt authentically. When restrictions prevented them from offering their famous in-shop expertise, they pivoted to offer hugely popular bookable one-to-one slots with their bike experts via Teams.

This approach enabled them to reach new global audiences and to expand into offering virtual cycle repair and support services, all while staying true to their ethos of creating close customer relationships by offering valued expertise.

Entrepreneur in Focus

Tiffany St James, co-founder of Curate42

Tiffany St James, digital strategist and co-founder of Curate42, a consultancy helping businesses redefine work, learning and play, has been using Microsoft Teams specifically to help clients work more effectively in hybrid working environments.
“The working environment has undergone massive changes in recent years and it’s critical to business delivery today to take advantage of the facilities that great tools like Teams offer – to enable your people to work together more efficiently, elegantly and in tune with their new working rhythms.
By working with Microsoft Teams we’ve been able to break down more traditional siloed working boundaries and engage clients’ teams in integrated working practices.
With many clients we’ve been able to better implement a sprint methodology and agile working structure, that includes everyone in and out of the office joining a quick morning stand-up call, and different blended teams coming together for creative workshops using Teams.
It’s important to understand and utilise the tools you have available at your fingertips, and ideally have them built into a single, streamlined system. With around 80 per cent of employees work time spent on collaboration, you really need that time to be used as effectively as possible.”

Teams Essentials also supports the kind of customer collaboration Tiffany mentions, thanks to private group chats and full integration with Gmail, as well as other third-party email and calendar solutions. This makes client diary planning and scheduling fast, seamless and easy.  

There is no doubt that the years ahead hold many challenges. But every challenge comes with a new opportunity if you’re in a position to respond with creativity and agility. So why not start looking at how you can embrace agility across your business to turbo change your future?

If you’d like to know more about how technology can help you improve agility, communications, collaboration and creativity in a modern small business environment visit aka.MS/HybridSMB for more help and guidance.  

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