Small businesses may be interested in innovative technologies, but only a few are willing to make the leap — and the investment — necessary to actually implement tools into their businesses.
The latest research from the SMB Technology Adoption Index, for example, revealed news that just 13 percent of U.S. SMBs are willing to embrace innovative technologies beyond moderate use of new solutions.
In Australia, however, adoption of technology by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seems to be a bit more accelerated.
Research from MYOB for its most recent Business Monitor survey found small businesses are preparing for some major technology investments. Surveying more than 1,000 SMEs, MYOB found that 76 percent said they had already invested in some type of innovative technology in the last year, with companies focusing on computer hardware, software, machinery and employee training.
Allocating the necessary funds to invest in cutting-edge solutions is key, but according to MYOB CEO Tim Reed, it’s not necessarily all about dollars and cents.
“Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, cutting-edge technology investment,” he said in a statement. “Small changes can deliver huge value to a business — whether that measure is time, money or an improved experience.”
Forty percent of small businesses told MYOB that they expect advances in technology to have a significant impact on their companies over the next decade — even more (78 percent) said it is likely to have at least some kind of impact as a whole. While small business owners in Australia are expecting disruption, MYOB said the data suggests SMEs aren’t afraid of this progress.
“The Business Monitor research shows us that SMEs understand the technology evolution underway and the need to incorporate innovation as a core component of their business, not just an added extra to address when cash-flow allows,” Tim Reed continued. “Pleasingly, we are seeing SMEs walk the walk. They’re not throwing their hands in the air with these challenges. They’re investing in the required innovation which can provide a competitive edge into the future.”
Technologies in Focus
In particular, Reed said, is SMEs’ interest in migrating from desktop accounting to online and cloud accounting tools, which he said are “becoming more automated to include bank fees and bill capture, which improves efficiency and saves time.”
Another technology in focus within MYOB’s report is social media. Surprisingly, only about a fifth of SMEs surveyed said they have a social media presence.
But for those companies using social media, there are clear benefits: 54 percent said the tool facilitates more interaction with customers, and half said social media makes doing business easier. MYOB’s Reed said that social media can be a powerful tool for SMEs, because the size of the company is not a barrier to adopting a social media presence.
“Twenty-seven percent of micro-businesses have a business page of some kind, ahead of small, medium and sole traders,” noted the CEO.
“We would encourage SMEs to continue to use innovative tools for their business, and a social media presence is helping make life easier for many,” he said. “Creating a social media presence and using it to interact with customers is a simple, innovative step that can help your business succeed.”
Feeling the Pressure, Lacking Support
Earlier research from MYOB suggested, however, that Australian SMEs are indeed feeling a bit of pressure. An April survey from the company found that 57 percent of small businesses feel that large corporations like Amazon are pressuring them to keep up with innovation and technology.
Further, the latest MYOB survey suggested small and medium-sized enterprises aren’t enduring technological disruption without some headwinds.
Nearly a third (29 percent) of SMEs told the cloud accounting company that the biggest barrier to technological change is the mere cost of integrating and developing innovative tools. Government regulation, too, is a key challenge, the SMEs said, with 26 percent citing this as their top barrier. A quarter added that a lack of government support was keeping them from integrating new technologies.
The political implications of SMEs’ technology adoption habits is clear in MYOB’s report: More than half of small business owners said they would vote for a political party that promoted funding for innovation, research and development by Australian companies, while 10 percent said they would vote against such an initiative.
“These insights outline the importance of removing these barriers to business growth,” Tim Reed explained. “A government needs to do as much as it can to encourage achievable innovation as it will lead to a vibrant small business community.”