In today’s era of hybrid work, it is essential for small businesses to make sure employees are equipped with innovative technology that meets their unique needs. According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, 93% of small business owners use at least one tech platform or tool to run their business, validating the importance of integrated technology in nearly every small business. By leveraging a comprehensive suite of technology, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can feel empowered to accomplish their goals, provide quality service to customers and scale their workforce. SMBs can save time and easily collaborate thanks to a seamlessly integrated and cohesive ecosystem of technology that optimizes processes, enhances collaboration and boosts productivity.
Lenovo is already at the forefront of this with the ThinkBook Plus Gen 4, which features an e-Ink display on the top cover that enhances collaboration and productivity by offering new efficient ways of working within the same device. Find out more in this TechBullion interview with AG Zheng, Lenovo’s Executive Director of Global SMB Segment.
Please tell us more about yourself?
My name is AG Zheng and I joined Lenovo in 2000 and am currently Executive Director in the SMB Segment. I’m responsible for the SMB Ecosystem and Smart Solutions, and leading SMB Product and Portfolio Management in the Commercial Product Center. Prior to my current role, I served as Product Director of Lenovo Notebook Business Unit where I led the Lenovo consumer notebook planning team, with my contribution Lenovo consumer notebook grew quickly to No.1 market share.
Could you give us a walkthrough of Lenovo’s SMB (Small to Medium Sized Business) Segment and the unique solutions you provide?
Lenovo’s mission is to create a better future for users through intelligence and innovation. We strive to improve individual productivity and enhance collaboration efficiency with purpose-built innovations to enable new digital solutions. We want to help our users save time, and balance work and life with happiness. We believe that happier individuals are more productive employees. While individuals may be working from home and saving time by not commuting, most are working more. The right tech can improve multitasking, increasing productivity and efficiency, resulting in a better work-life balance.
For Lenovo’s SMB segment, we have devices and solutions catered to entrepreneurs who are looking to make their business successful in today’s market. For example, our Lenovo ThinkBook is perfect for SMB trailblazers who are determined to accelerate, scale or jump-start their businesses. We always seek to push the envelope in design and innovation. For example, our ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 offers a second screen embedded next to the keyboard which can help users seamlessly multitask across desktop apps, from checking budgets in Excel to editing a business flyer in Photoshop.
How can SMBs use technology to scale their workforce- could you give a statistical market overview of the use of technology by SMBs and what innovations are setting the pace?
In today’s era of hybrid work, small businesses must make sure employees are equipped with high efficient and innovative technology that meets their unique needs. From laptops, monitors, tablets and mobile phones, small business owners need to assess the best solutions for their team. According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, 93% of small business owners use at least one tech platform or tool to run their business, validating the importance of integrated technology in nearly every small business. By leveraging a comprehensive suite of technology, SMBs can feel empowered to accomplish their goals, provide quality service to customers and scale their workforce. SMBs can save time and easily collaborate, all thanks to a seamlessly integrated and cohesive ecosystem of technology that optimizes processes, enhances collaboration and boosts productivity. For example, Lenovo’s ThinkBook Plus Gen 4 features an e-Ink display in the top cover that enhances collaboration and productivity by offering new efficient ways of working within the same device.
As far as innovations, AI will have a significant impact on the way SMBs operate, as well as their employees and their customers. SMBs will see great advancements in productivity through the use of AI-enabled hardware and software. Therefore, employees will be able to utilize these devices to have AI to do more basic and time-consuming jobs, and they can spend more time on creative or time-intensive tasks and consumer behavior will be heavily influenced by the way AI is integrated into consumer-facing devices, applications and sales/marketing channels.
Why is it essential for small businesses to make sure employees are equipped with innovative technology in today’s market?
Since hybrid work became normal, teams have evolved and are more dispersed. Having the right technology to keep teams connected, engaged and secure is more important than ever. Investing in innovative, portable technology that allows employees to multitask and work efficiently from wherever and whenever is essential for today’s workforce. Lenovo devices are built with innovative thinking in mind and to support collaboration and hyper tasking.
Additionally, SMBs can increase efficiency by leveraging AI. A few common use cases for AI as a means to increase SMB productivity is by using it to automate routine tasks and to use it as a source of creative inspiration. Along with this, the use of AI-powered devices, such as the Lenovo ThinkBook 16p Gen 4, allows for more demanding workflows to be handled with greater ease. This device comes equipped with AI-enabled features that intelligently manage power and cooling. Users will also experience better video conferencing with the AI-assisted Lenovo View application that uses smart algorithms to enhance video performance.
Another crucial reason why SMBs need to be equipped with innovative technology is to remain secure against cyber threats. According to recent statistics, 2,200 cyber attacks occur per day, with a cyber attack happening every 39 seconds, on average. As cybersecurity threats continue to rise, an AI-enabled, state-of-the-art suite of security offerings will help to protect against unwanted intruders. When considering the best options, SMBs should prioritize security packages that include features such as biometric authentication and AI-powered endpoint protection. These features can prevent bad actors from gaining access to your infrastructure, can predict cyberattacks before they occur and can enable devices to self-heal from any attack almost instantaneously.
What is the importance of small to medium-sized business (SMBs) having an ecosystem of tech solutions?
Small business employees are often required to wear many different hats but are also often short on the time and resources that they need to effectively accomplish all their different tasks. With this, they must find ways to simplify tasks and meet professional goals. Being equipped with highly adaptable platforms can allow employees to customize their work experience to whatever set of diverse tasks they need to complete, increasing efficiency and productivity.
As AI becomes an essential part of the tech ecosystem, SMBs can benefit by offering IT optimization. Many workplaces have started using AI chatbots, which allow employees and customers to have access to the information and resources they need around the clock. In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses must strategically allocate resources and implement AI tools as well as infrastructure and cloud automation tools. The most effective means of ensuring that an SMB is well-suited for growth is to continuously evaluate the tech ecosystem in place and make sure that the business is adaptable.
By utilizing a comprehensive technology ecosystem, equipped with modern hardware devices, software solutions and AI products, SMBs are empowered to meet their goals, satisfy their customers, and scale the capabilities of their workforce. Collaboration and productivity can be greatly enhanced through the use of cutting-edge devices.
Are there any other special tools available for SMBs at Lenovo that most businesses do not know about and in what ways can these tools help business owners?
Yes, one service that I would recommend to SMBs is Lenovo TruScale which can include Device as a Service (DaaS) solutions. This helps businesses manage their entire device lifecycle, so that employees are equipped with the best devices and utilizing their time in productive ways instead of dealing with technical inconveniences. As-a-Service solutions allow businesses including SMBs to outsource software, hardware, and support management to DaaS providers through a subscription-based model. Through DaaS, SMBs are also given a more effective way to invest in emerging technologies such as AI and AR/VR, which can make their businesses more agile and increase their ability to capitalize on new opportunities. This subscription-based model should make SMBs feel secure because it lines up with their needs, maximizes employee efficiency and optimizes the use of the IT budget.
What should SMBs look out for regarding tech come 2024 and beyond?
A study from Lenovo showed 70% of SMB employees reported work flexibility makes them more satisfied with their job and 60% said that they prefer working from home at least part of the time. Additionally, recent data shows nearly 85% of workers use their personal smartphones for work-related purposes, making a proper MDM system more important than ever before.
In light of this, empowering remote and hybrid work is crucial for SMBs to retain talent and be successful. Lenovo ThinkBook laptops designed for productivity and versatility, provide exactly what today’s SMB workers need in the hybrid work environment. And as your business continues to grow, it’s critical to have the right technology to stay connected and engaged. Investing in flexible and portable devices that allow smarter multitasking for a flexible workforce is key in today’s hybrid world.
Additionally, SMBs should be on the lookout for ways to implement AI into their business. The next major transformation will be driven by AI and generative AI. Future AI PCs will become essential tools for SMBs to maximize their resources and provide more intelligent personalized PC experiences that use on-device fine-tuned AI models. As time goes on, there will be more and more AI tools that are purpose-built towards use in SMBs.
Do you have more tips to share with our readers today?
Determining the best way to grow your business starts with a strategic plan. SMB owners must also glean a solid understanding of how businesses evolve with consumer demands, adapt to industry changes and economic volatility, and differentiate themselves from the competition in order to scale. Small business owners must be creative when sourcing and building a business plan that will work for them and their teams.
Most modern businesses today use AI in some part of their business from customer support tools to smart collaboration solutions like noise-canceling audio equipment or secure biometric authentication. With the recent advancements in generative AI, the biggest challenge for businesses is understanding generative AI’s boundaries, including its strengths and weaknesses for commercial applications. As business leaders and ITDMs continue to map out opportunities to leverage AI, it is imperative that they consider the comprehensive knowledge base it is built upon. Generative AI will never replace human interactions but it can support with providing better user experiences and developing more personalized content tailored to the audience. By leveraging adaptable and revolutionary technology, entrepreneurs have the potential to reach new heights and effectively scale their businesses for success.