The global environment for smaller businesses is rapidly changing. There is immense potential for new technology to level the playing field, meaning start-ups and disrupters can challenge industry incumbents and discover new markets.
The opportunities are there. However, there are common misconceptions around bringing in digital services, and it’s holding SMEs back. This year we looked at how SMEs are poised to embrace new services, such as AI, big data and IoT.
Using a number of methods, including surveys, focus groups and interviews, we heard from businesses in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Spain and the UK and find out their attitudes, thoughts and plans for transforming digitally - here are the four most common misconceptions we found:
Misconception 1: Digital services are expensive
SMEs operate in an environment that focuses very much on the present - trying to manage cash flow and minimise risks - making it too easy to put off decisions on digital investment.
The belief that the spend will simply be a cost for the business overlooks the benefits that robust digital services can have to boost business growth and deliver substantial ROI. Productivity and cloud-based solutions are continually becoming less expensive provided there is the supporting environment to allow for data demands of these services. Benefits such as the ability to work anywhere mean that no time is lost - and for agile SMEs, that’s worth the investment alone.
Misconception 2: Digital services are for medium- to large-sized businesses
SMEs may hold off investment in digital services on the basis of their ‘readiness’ for a technology upgrade. Yet this rationale can put them in a position where failure to create an environment that gets them ready for services, such as the cloud or mobile solutions, can restrict growth and lead to greater costs in playing catch up later down the line. Having the right tools on hand can help smaller businesses compete with larger enterprises.
Misconception 3: SMEs must employ IT experts
Some SMEs possess the fear that they don’t have the internal expertise to handle new digital services. However, they don’t need to employ an in-house IT team to manage and maintain the technology - many services provide assistance to ensure the system runs optimally, and that any issues are identified and addressed. SMEs need a partner that can help them to use digital services in the right way to help them transform how they operate and explore new business opportunities.
Misconception 4: Security is not critical
Fuelled by high-profile security breaches and cases of data theft, most SMEs are realising that there’s no such thing as ‘too small’ to be taking proactive measures to ensure the integrity of network and data. Forward-thinking businesses are finding that security - across cyber security, IoT and the cloud - is key to sustaining competitiveness in the global environment.
SMEs can protect themselves from threats through adoption of services such as antivirus, electronic security, and network security. These can range from software that detects nascent cyber threats, through to online live-streaming of CCTV systems to protect physical assets.
Ensuring the security of networks and devices will pay incalculable returns on an SME’s investment, preventing debilitating business disruption and providing a sense of confidence in how it manages operations and customer data.
By understanding how businesses are using digital services today, we can begin to understand how well they are positioned for bigger technological shifts in the near future.
For SMEs to be ready, they need to start looking past the misconceptions around digital, instead embracing what will soon be a given in any business.
Those that start moving today, will be ahead tomorrow.