Big data, cloud computing and smart, real time analytics have gotten so advanced that they're available to all businesses, regardless of size, but not all small businesses can afford them. And, nearly four years after the financial crisis, it can still be difficult for small businesses to get loans.
One interesting alternative for small businesses comes from IBM. In November, IBM announced it will lend $4 billion dollars to small businesses to help them adopt more advanced technology. They're trying to make it easy for businesses can get approved on site with IBM's partners through a new mobile app. If you have an iPhone or an Android, you can do it right on your phone.
"It's important for enterprises of all size to help drive economic growth," says Ed Abrams, IBM's vice president of global business partners & midmarket. "We recognize that for all of us to succeed, whether it's a large business or a small business, if we can help them to become a growth engine to grow their own business, it's going to benefit the larger ecosystem in which we all exist and do business."
Here are three things you should know about IBM's $4 billion loan program:
IBM knows small businesses are interested because it has tried this before. "This program actually builds off of something we started last year where we put a billion dollars in financing into the market for small and medium businesses. We expected that funding to last us about 18 months," Abrams says, "we actually burned through it in a little less than a year with almost 7,000 businesses taking advantage of that funding for new technology solutions."
It's a trend that's only going to grow for small businesses, so early adopters benefit. "Cloud-based computing or off-premise, hosted solutions are becoming more and more the norm," Abrams says. "In fact, our data says that for small and medium businesses, 60 to 65 percent of their technology solutions are going to be in a hosted environment by 2015. You're seeing those cost barriers go away because if you're on a usage based pricing model, you can afford broader technology than you would have been able to than you would have been able to had you had to build it on premise. And that's why a lot of this capability is making its way to smaller businesses"
Companies with relatively few employees can get as much out of it as larger enterprises. "There's a landscape company out in California, Bishop Company. It's a small company with about 15 employees who really started to use our technology to grow their business and to find a way to distribute professional landscape products to a much broader community than they could sell from their retail storefront." Abrams says. "They've been able to increase sales by 200 percent, and 75 percent of that is from customers they've converted from telephone or e-commerce ordering."
The tech's ready for small businesses, and there's cheap financing available. Seems like a good time to get ahead of the curve.