In a recent blog, I reported on the findings of a survey from Boston Consulting Group, which found a substantial correlation between SMBs’ revenue and job growth and their adoption of newer technologies. These results have spurred Microsoft to support the America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in its efforts to provide technology-based eLearning via the Global Classroom.
In an email exchange with Cindy Bates, vice president of small and midsize business (SMB) for Microsoft, Bates cited the Boston Consulting Group study as part of the inspiration behind Microsoft’s support for the e-learning initiative. Bates said:
A recent Boston Consulting Group study showed successful small businesses that use technology such as the cloud and enterprise social are able to increase revenue and create more jobs. SMBs play a critical role in fueling national economies, often functioning as a primary driver of job and economic growth. This innovation, energy and passion creates jobs, builds communities and provides opportunities. That’s why Microsoft is committed to helping SMBs realize their full potential through technology access and resources.
Bates said that, of course, Microsoft has been onboard with assisting SMBs with technology challenges as “part of its corporate citizenship efforts.” The company often partners with chambers and other business groups on a local level in educational programs and events for small businesses. Bates acknowledges that SMBs do struggle with finding the resources to embrace new technologies:
Through our work with small businesses we recognize that business owners strapped for time and resources aren’t always able to prioritize technology. By providing free educational resources to small businesses through the Global Classroom initiative, we’re providing access for SMBs to leverage the power of new technologies and contribute to overall economic growth.
When asked what the sponsorship of Global Classroom by Microsoft will bring to SMBs, Bates cited numerous areas within the technology arena that can impact the bottom line for these small businesses:
The Microsoft sponsorship funds the implementation of online training portals and provides a free three-month membership to new members of the ASBDC and local Chambers that register for the Global Classroom. As a result, it gives small businesses access to eLearning resources that will educate them on technology, finance, customer service and other areas of business. Participation in Global Classroom has significant long-term impact for small businesses – the training primes them for success and provides knowledge that will help overcome future challenges.
The Global Classroom offers tutorials and courses on many areas of technology including information technology, Internet security, mobile applications and entrepreneurship. The eLearning platform is entirely cloud-based. It can be “branded to your organization,” so that employee students can access the classroom anywhere they have an Internet connection.
The Global Classroom site assures companies that the platform is secure and “all data and access [is] encrypted using HTTPS.” The classroom in the cloud is also scalable, so that any number of employees can access the courses and new classes can be added easily.
Being able to provide online courses to employees to learn about technology and business-related issues is can help SMBs to keep workforces up-to-date. It will also enable these companies to grow and create more new positions, which Bates said is important:
… The most successful small businesses are on the cutting edge of technology. The right technology doesn’t just make their lives easier, it helps them to be more successful, earn more revenue and create more jobs.
I asked Bates if there was a single new technology that she felt would be key to growth and success for an SMB, and she explained her thoughts:
The cloud is revolutionary for small businesses because it gives the same capabilities as large companies, but for small business prices. Cloud solutions like Office 365 for small businesses provide affordable yet robust tech to any SMB. The cloud is a true game changer because it allows SMBs to scale for growth, compete globally against larger businesses and employ a mobile workforce. It also frees them of the IT burdens of the past because it’s managed by the cloud service provider instead of on the small business’s premises.
I also wondered what other initiatives Microsoft provides to SMBs, and Bates filled me in:
Part of Microsoft’s mission is to engage and support small businesses throughout the U.S. providing resources, solutions and training. One of the many initiatives that our team coordinates is the Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) program which directly connects local small businesses with trusted and trained technology experts in their community. Our core business of creating technology solutions to help people realize their full potential extends to small businesses as well. Products, like Office 365, are designed to give small businesses access to enterprise-level technology at SMB prices.
The Microsoft Business Hub is another excellent resource for small business owners and entrepreneurs. There you can find information on everything from products and devices to advice from other SMBs and Microsoft experts. Small business owners can also visit my blog for more information about how technology can help them meet, and even exceed, their objectives.