We read about it all the time in the business and political press: small business is the engine that drives the economy.  But when we look at the innovation that’s occurred over the past decade, the consumer and enterprise segments seem to get all of the attention as early adopters. I believe that perception is about to change with some findings in a recent survey in which we collaborated with Chetan Sharma Consulting.

The evidence shows that small to medium businesses are integrating smartphones and tablets more rapidly and taking advantage of new technologies previously available only to larger companies with broader resources. The adoption of new technology by SMBs is having a positive effect on productivity, competitiveness, and efficiency.  They’re more agile and can integrate these technologies much more quickly than larger companies, so it’s almost like a testing lab to see what works and what doesn’t.

New research provides insight

This hypothesis goes against the grain of common business assumptions, so to get a deeper look into how this segment is integrating new technologies we collaborated with Chetan Sharma Consulting. The research included a survey of several dozen SMB companies across the U.S. as well as analysis of data from over 12,000 companies in the SMB segment and more than 20,000 larger enterprises.  We held one-on-one discussions with some companies to get deeper perspective.

The results surprised even us.  We found that smartphones and tablets are increasingly replacing notebooks and desktops, indicating that a dramatic shift is taking place in computing needs of mobile workers. We also found that the SMB segment is a clear leading indicator of the enterprise market in terms of solution adoption. The next two years are likely to bring tighter integration of mobile data with operations.

A few other interesting findings:

Small and medium businesses are leading indicators of technology adoption. As referenced in this paper, SMB smartphone and tablet penetration is more than 90 and 65 percent respectively; whereas national smartphone and tablet penetration is roughly 55 and 22 percent.

Mobility is providing SMBs quicker access to people and information. Companies value fast access to contacts and information when considering mobile data solutions – more than 65 percent of the surveyed respondents in the study said this was an important factor.

Business software and solutions are being transformed by the use of smartphones and tablets. With this shift, we’ve seen the emergence of a generation of app developers focusing primarily on the mobile app platform. That’s why we’re opening our network with new APIs that can tap powerful tools and resources quickly and efficiently.

Mobile broadband, cloud, and apps are providing real and tangible ROI. The SMBs in the survey saw an average savings of 40 minutes per worker per day, which translates into significant impact on profits over the course of the year.

You can explore these trends and more in “The ABCs of SMB Transformation: Apps, Broadband, and the Cloud.”

Do these statistics and trends support what is happening in your SMB? How are apps, broadband, and the cloud benefiting your SMB?