Driving an overall digital transformation for a small business is challenging — from both cost and skill perspectives. At the forefront of the small business technology trends discussion is Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner at SMB Group, Inc. In Episode 6 of our “Business Disrupted” podcast, Samsung Business Insights sat down with her to discuss small business IT needs and how they can thrive in a digital world.

Q: Recently, SMB Group conducted research on small business technology trends. What are some of the most interesting insights you learned?

McCabe: One, the use of cloud services or applications is very high. Over 90 percent of small-to-medium businesses are using at least one cloud app — most are using multiple. That’s the new normal. However, a lot of these solutions aren’t integrated right now. So, the big trend now is application integration and trying to figure out how to get these applications to talk to each other, exchange data, and integrate different processes so things are more streamlined, and there’s a better view of what’s going on in the business.

I think the other key area that a lot of SMBs are trying to focus on is improving the customer experience. Customers are becoming more demanding and their expectations of businesses are really rising. If you don’t, as a business, meet their expectations, you’re going to lose customers.

We see SMBs looking at how they use technology to improve customer experience, improve service, grow revenue and attract and nurture customers. They’re evaluating what’s out there and looking for solutions that are going to make it easier to do that.

Q: Integrating applications is definitely a big challenge for all companies. What advice do you have about tackling this issue?

McCabe: I think you need to start with your core business application. Whether it’s Intuit, Salesforce or another business software vendor, they are building platforms and using open APIs and other kinds of integration technology. I think taking advantage of these vendors’ upgrades is really key, and it should be the biggest consideration when choosing new applications. Otherwise, if the systems don’t talk to each other, you’re going to end up with a lot of siloed information.

Q: What are some of the other ways you’re seeing small businesses use disruptive technology to gain an edge over competitors or large enterprises?

McCabe: SMBs have to be more creative with technology, because they usually do not have large amounts of resources or expertise. One of the advantages they do have and one of the ways they can do things differently is that they’re really focused on their goals with few internal obstacles right from the get-go. They’re going to look at the business need and ask, “Do I need to add a new sales channel? Do I need to improve the way I deliver a certain service or solution? Do I need to cut operational costs?”

They can look for a solution that will fill that need immediately. They don’t get wrapped up in the technology first — they’re more pragmatic and practical about solving their problem.

Q: Let’s talk about workforce recruitment and the gig economy. What trends are you seeing there?

McCabe: In a survey we did last year we saw that the gig economy is playing a key role for SMBs. We saw that not only are gig workers or contract workers already accounting for a good 15 to 20 percent of the work getting done, but in terms of future hiring, there are strong plans to hire contract workers to do certain jobs in the organization.

SMBs will need to figure out how to work with these types of workers more effectively because they’re usually offsite more. I think that cloud-based solutions that make it easier for everybody to work together are really key. I also think for most businesses, you’ve got to look beyond email and phone to using newer solutions like web conferencing, video conferencing and stream-based messaging apps. These applications help everybody collaborate and work together in real time.

Looking for more great insights about technology trends for SMBs and the enterprise? Listen to Samsung’s new podcast, Business Disrupted, Episode 6: IT Innovation Best Practices Across the SMB and Enterprise, to hear more great insights from Laurie McCabe as well as from Rhonda Vetere, president of data analytics at nThrive.