For small businesses, the idea of implementing new technology into current working practices can be perceived to be extremely costly. Most SMEs don’t have a large budget to fund new devices or huge amounts of time to get to grips with them and train staff on how to use them.
However, with the vast amount of enterprise technology now becoming available, getting on board no longer needs to come with a huge price tag or stressful implementation processes. And in today’s increasingly digital world, SME’s can’t afford to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the changing marketplace.
Yet, many small businesses are still reluctant to embrace new technology, as the task of adapting their working practices can seem extremely daunting. According to the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), 94 per cent of businesses believe that digital technology can present new opportunities - yet 25 per cent of SMEs still don’t have a digital strategy in place.
So, what’s holding SMEs back?
“Buying new kit isn’t going to come cheap”
Cash restraints are a common concern for many SMEs. For those businesses battling with the pressures of cashflow management and limited funding options, investing in technology is probably low down the priority list because it’s going to be expensive to purchase new technology and devices, right?
Well actually, this isn’t always the case. Embracing tech doesn’t mean splashing out on the most advanced and costly devices just for the sake of it. Instead, switching to cost effective solutions and software that can solve a business’ specific problems can bring huge benefits. For example, simply switching to inexpensive cloud-based programmes to store important data, such as Dropbox, can significantly reduce overheads.
Going paperless removes the cost of purchasing paper, printer ink, and stationery products needed to post or store documents. In fact, we’ve calculated that our paperless WorkMobile data capture solution saves businesses on average £2,089 per employee every year. For small businesses in particular, these cost savings will go a long way towards relieving some of the financial pressures they may be under. Opting for paperless solutions also enables information to be shared almost instantly from any location, which improves communication and efficiency between workers, so they can get the job done quickly and more effectively.
We’re also seeing the phenomenon of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) becoming the new way to operate, whereby companies allow employees to use their own personal devices in the workplace. Implementing a BYOD policy enables workers to engage with technology that they’re already comfortable with, which helps to reduce training time and the cost of buying new devices. This can therefore make for happier employees. All-in-all, this contributes to greater levels of productivity. And with four out of five adults now owning a smartphone, it’s extremely easy for SMEs to implement such a policy.
“I have other priorities to think about first”
Running a business is no easy feat, and the to-do list never seems to end. From handling the company finances to tackling endless mountains of paperwork, it may feel like there’s just not enough time to spend on completely overhauling internal processes.
But in reality, 59 per cent of SMEs waste up to 10 hours a week on administration tasks. This takes precious time away from more high-value activity that could actually increase revenue and growth. If businesses were to invest a little time in embracing digital forms or tech that can automate administration jobs, this could help to save a lot of time in the long run. The return on investment would come from greater efficiency and productivity, meaning that employees could focus their attentions on more value-adding tasks that would either bring in revenue, or reduce business operating costs.
“I’ve already invested in my current processes”
Getting on board with digital transformation is perceived as being "expensive", but it’s more an issue with mindset than actual cost. Many concerns centre around how much time it’s going to take to make the change, or how much effort and emotional investment will be needed to manage the transition. All of this can seem extremely costly, particularly when the business has already spent time and money incorporating the processes it currently uses. However, by not taking advantage of the most up-to-date tech, many businesses are wasting precious time. In fact, 65 per cent of SMEs admit to using outdated Microsoft Office technology, which can lead to lower rates of productivity and efficiency.
This behavioural barrier to adopting tech stems from a lack of awareness about the benefits and opportunities available. But, businesses need to be breaking out of this mindset before they get left behind. For SMEs that do implement technology effectively, they can become more agile and productive, and increase their business growth. It is widely recognised that technology is a great enabler for businesses across all sizes and sectors - businesses embracing new technology can expect to grow on average two to three times faster.
Why should they be investing in the digital revolution?
From being able to automate time-consuming processes, to enabling workers to operate remotely and improve efficiencies, the benefits of digital transformation are vast and the possibilities endless. SMEs can completely revolutionise their processes with digital data capture or automation technology, and therefore become more productive, versatile and forward-thinking. And if each business was to save two hours of their time each week, this could boost the UK economy by almost £9bn.
Innovative companies are already reaping the benefits of adopting this type of tech, such as greater cost savings, improved efficiencies and more streamlined ways of working. Those that are getting on board are gaining an advantage over competition, while those reluctant to make the change risk being left behind. Some SMEs are even taking the digital revolution to the next level in order to gain the benefits new tech can present - 28 per cent of firms already adopting tech are now looking to invest in artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies in order to become more agile and improve the services they can offer.
There’s no denying the rate in which technology is advancing. But at the moment, adoption rates amongst SMEs are not where they should be due to a lack of knowledge around the benefits new devices and systems can offer. Rather than seeing technology as expensive and out of their reach, SMEs need to be recognising the opportunities available to them and must start moving with the times. The brave business owners who take the plunge and invest in this technology will be the ones that get ahead of the competition and can operate effectively in the changing marketplace.
Colin Yates, chief support officer, WorkMobile
Image source: Shutterstock/MaximP