Future of Work: How SMEs can operate and innovate in a connected world

During a masterclass at YourStory's Future of Work 2021, Nabendu Das, Head of Engineering at Tally Solutions, explained that although there are multiple digital solutions to help SMEs, integration across processes is missing.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some momentum among traditional businesses in embracing digital solutions. The subsequent lockdown and the financial impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) accelerated their need for digital transformation in the medium term.

However, simply adopting digital payments, accounting solutions, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems do not ensure a seamless experience, according to Nabendu Das, Head of Engineering at Tally Solutions.

During a masterclass at YourStory MediaFuture of Work 2021, Nabendu explained how SMEs can operate and innovate seamlessly in the connected world of the future.

He said:

"Although customers are highly connected, SMEs are not there yet. SMEs are digitally connected in a few ways, but this is often not a seamless process as they use a combination of semi-automated and manual business processes."

Here are some of the key learnings and insights from the MasterClass:

Building blocks for a seamless, connected experience

At present, SMEs spend a lot of time in reconciling payments with the marketplace, chartered accountants or tax consultants, business suppliers and customers, and more, explained Nabendu. Although there are multiple digital solutions to help with this, integration across processes is missing.

"For instance, SMEs share financial data with their CAs (chartered accountants) through a pen drive or Google Drive. The SME has the original version and a copy is shared with the CA. The CA begins to make adjustments and changes in the copy, while the SME continues to add entries and make edits in the original copy as business transactions happen," he said.

In such situations, an SME and the CA talk to each other and inform each other of the edits being made, and try to incorporate them in their versions of the data.

"This is a messy affair. Ideally, there should be automatic or single-step acceptance of syncing of data. This means a software has to deal with data transformation as the attributes of data may not be same on both sides," Nabendu said.

If a digital solution is able to help an SME to automatically reconcile transactions with CAs, marketplaces, banks, GST portal, etc, it would make for a seamless experience and allow more time to focus on running the business.

Considerations for building such an experience

Data privacy

SMEs are used to keeping business data on premises. They need to trust software before before allowing business data to be uploaded.

"Context of data privacy varies from individuals to businesses. Clicking a box works for the data privacy of an individual. For a business, there have to be design principles in place to safeguard data," Nabendu said, adding that an SME's brand or product are public information, but its financials are private. They should use digital solutions that allow only intended recipients to decrypt and decipher such data, he advised.

Offline experience

With a business solution, SMEs should be able to access data from anywhere. Nabendu said that while this is "somewhat solved by SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications that store data on the cloud," these applications assume users are always online. They may not allow SMEs to access and operate on the data when offline.

"What if you face a temporary internet disconnection? What if you're flying and need to work on your data? While using a business solution, SMEs need to ask themselves if they can operate it like email. Emails go out when connectivity returns, and even business applications should work that way. Thus, a seamless, connected experience would entail this ability to access data at anytime and from anywhere," he said.

Scalability and price

SMEs usually do not have a dedicated IT department, and prefer installing, using and upgrading software that doesn't require specialised help. Nabendu pointed out that SMEs would rather be tech users than tech experts. The product has to be priced right and simple to use, otherwise SMEs have to outsource IT help.

"At Tally, we are building such a cross-platform, multi-device solution that can be operated anytime and from anywhere. Our solutions allow SMEs to interact seamlessly with their networks of vendors, suppliers, customers, etc."

With this approach, Tally has been focussing on allowing users to comfortably manage and grow their businesses without needing to know the finer nuances of accounting or technology. In December 2020, the Bengaluru-based business management software provider launched TallyPrime that equips SME owners and new-age entrepreneurs to enhance their business productivity amidst the pandemic. 

At present, Tally has two million SMEs paying for its accounting software, and nearly five million SMEs have used the product in the last three decades. Tally caters to over six million users across industries in over 100 countries. The brand has one of the largest partner ecosystems in the country with more than 25,000 partners associated with it directly to provide customer experience.

A big shout out to our Future of Work 2021 Co-presenting Sponsors Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Unique Solutions; Digital Excellence Partner, Google Cloud; Associate Sponsor HP and Intel; and Sponsors: Atlassian, Freight Tiger, Archon I Cohesity, TeamViewer, and Pocket Aces

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta