The world of Virtual Assistance has evolved from providing basic administrative and clerical support to handling increasingly complex tasks for clients. Today’s virtual assistants are increasingly becoming a gateway and a liaison between the client and the other specialized resources within their company. One area where this model can really gain traction is in addressing the growing technology pains for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
An SME can have myriad of technology needs, which are sometimes as diverse as for a large corporation, though obviously smaller in scale. These requirements can be generally divided into two categories. Firstly there are “must-have” needs such as email and desktop support. The second category includes applications in areas such as CRM or BPM (Business Process Management), which help make these companies more productive, more informed, and more responsive to the changing world. It’s this second category where SMEs have generally lagged the larger corporations in adoption for obvious reasons. The SMEs do not have the scale to invest in human resources, software, and consulting cost to implement these solutions. A lot of times SMEs are busy just trying to manage their must-have technology needs that they don’t get time to seriously think more about incorporating technology solutions to streamline their businesses.
However, during last few years, the environment has become increasingly favorable for SMEs to start looking into incorporating more technology into their daily business tasks. Firstly there is the rise and acceptance of open-source technologies as a viable alternative to more expensive commercial software from companies like Oracle and SAP. LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) based technology stack provide robust frameworks on which we can build applications. Also available are open-source customizable applications that target certain verticals such as Joomla for Content Management or SugerCRM for Customer Relationship Management. The result is that the product development life cycles have been reduced drastically thus enabling fairly rapid development and deployment at a much lower cost.
Secondly the evolution of VA companies have provided these SMEs with one-stop shop where they can ask providers to look into operations, spot potential areas which can be automated, suggest particular existing or new applications that can fit the bill, and then make development resources available to develop and maintain those applications. Today’s crop of VA companies has amassed a strong knowledge base working with SMEs which they can leverage. Plus they can rely on in-house research teams to supplement their knowledge base when working with a particular company. Quite simply, this range of services is not available through specialized offshore development houses or dedicated technology consulting companies.
Combine the low cost of open-source or subscription based software with the flexibility of reasonably priced VA rate plans and you create a very attractive model for SMEs to speed up technology adoption and gain competitive edge – at a time when they need it the most.