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SME sector divided on digital disruption

While Australians have increasingly integrated new technologies into their everyday lives, the SME sector is still testing the water when it comes to embracing digital disruption, according to mid-tier accounting and business advisory firm Bentleys.

The latest results of The Voice of Australian Business survey, Bentleys’ bi-annual survey of SMEs across Australia, show businesses are evenly split in terms of whether they considered digital disruption a threat or an opportunity – 25% saw it as an opportunity while 29% considered it a threat.

Meanwhile, over half of the businesses surveyed (60%) said they use technology to cut time spent on administration, followed by marketing (53% remote access (50 per cent) and improving cash flow (43%).

A lack of understanding

Michael Ruggiero, managing partner, Bentleys SA said the division between SMEs who see digital disruption as a threat and those who see it as an opportunity could point to a lack of understanding around how to embrace these technologies in a practical way, which is causing a reluctance to engage.

“The 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,” he said.

“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 see 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 that not only improve the bottom line but free up time for business owners to spend on more important activities such as deepening customer relationships and gathering data that creates more meaningful client interactions or better products and services.”

Do your homework, SMEs told

Ruggiero said SME owners should start the new financial year by reviewing their current situation and considering how it could be improved by digital technologies. For owners looking to refine their business operations and process, but who might be hesitant about embracing digital technologies, Ruggiero recommended they tap into their professional network.

“Peer-to-peer learning can be one of the best sources of information,” he said. “Find out first hand from other SME owners the types of technologies they are using and what they like or don’t like, what challenges they encountered when implementing and how they overcame them”.

Ruggiero also recommended SME owners exercise due diligence when looking into digital technologies for their business.

“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,” he said. “There are several options available, so make sure you land on the best option for your business. Take time to undertake proper research – there is an abundance of useful information available online. Specifically, look at reviews and, if possible, ask the technology providers for a run-through of the product or at the very least an outline of its features. Don’t forget to consider the costs in buying and setting up new technologies to ensure it’s a viable option that fits within your budget.”

Ruggiero said digital technologies should be seen as tools for ensuring SMEs operate as effectively and efficiently as possible, remain competitive and can achieve growth into the future.

“Embracing digital disruption isn’t 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.”

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James Harkness

James Harkness

James Harnkess previous editor at Dynamic Business

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