Australia’s small-to-medium enterprises (SME) sector is still testing the waters when it comes to digital technologies according to a report by mid-tier accounting and business advisory firm Bentleys.
According to the latest results of The Voice of Australian Business survey, a bi-annual national survey of SMEs across all industries and regions, businesses were evenly divided in whether they saw digital disruption as a threat or opportunity. Some 29 per cent of businesses saw it as a threat and 25 per cent as an opportunity.
Among the other key findings;
- Small businesses were most positive about digital disruption, with 18 per cent seeing it as a significant opportunity, compared to only eight per cent of medium businesses and six per cent of micro businesses.
- 16 per cent of medium businesses foresaw greater difficulty in adapting to technological change due to the larger size of the systems that would need to change, followed by six per cent of small businesses and 10 per cent of micro businesses.
- Over half of the businesses surveyed (60 per cent) said they use technology to cut time spent on administration, followed by marketing (53 per cent,) remote access (50 per cent) and improving cash flow (43 per cent).
- The survey also revealed that medium businesses were more enthusiastic about potential benefits in automated invoicing (56 per cent,) recruitment (55 per cent,) and reducing staff costs (49 per cent).
Michael Ruggiero, managing partner, Bentleys said the results suggested a lack of understanding around how to embrace digital technologies in a practical way. This can lead to reluctance to engage in them.
“We are seeing that SMEs that are proactively embracing digital technologies, particularly in the manufacturing and agribusiness sectors, are reaping the opportunities in how it can effectively improve or even change their business model and operations completely. However, according to our research, that is only a quarter of businesses. Given the rate of development of digital technologies, it’s somewhat surprising this figure isn’t higher.
“The ones who are seeing it as threat are worried it will disrupt their traditional way of approaching their business – essentially upsetting the applecart. However, when integrated properly digital technologies should create efficiencies.”
These efficiencies should improve the bottom line and free up time for business owners to focus on more important activities such as deepening customer engagement, he said.
Ruggiero advised business owners to strongly consider their digital due diligence.
“Do your due diligence: every business is different and has different needs. Think about the areas of your business operations where you spend most of your time and how digital technologies may be able to help you.
“Modernising your current business operations and processes by integrating digital technologies will help SMEs gain an advantage when it comes to speed, cost and the ease of doing business. But ultimately, it’s about ensuring your business is operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. Keeping it competitive, while also positioning it for future growth.”
Embracing digital disruption is not about up hauling your entire business model or operations, he said. “Rather it’s about using technologies in a smart way to complement and boost your current practices.”