Small business attitudes to technology and STP revealed

In the lead-up to mandatory single touch payroll (STP) reporting from 1 July, global small business platform Xero has polled Australian small-business owners on their attitudes to change management and technology adoption.

More than half of the small businesses surveyed (55 per cent) said they did not know what STP was, with another one in five (20 per cent) wrongly believing that STP did not apply to them and 11 per cent revealing they’re not compliant yet. This lack of adoption of STP is contrasted with the positive attitudes small-business owners have towards technology, with two in three (66 per cent) agreeing that it gave them a competitive edge.

Key findings from the Xero What’s STPing You? Survey (aka “What’s Stopping You?”), of small-business owners with one to 19 employees, included:

  • 75 per cent supported the idea that Australia should become a more innovative country.
  • The word “digitisation” prompted a mixed reaction, with 38 per cent saying it made them feel excited, 33 per cent saying it didn’t apply to them, 22 per cent saying it made them feel left behind and seven per cent saying it made them feel disengaged.
  • The majority of the respondents (64 per cent) said they would embrace any changes that would help them work smarter or faster.
  • Respondents revealed a range of barriers to adoption of digital tools in their business, including a lack of understanding (40 per cent), lack of resourcing (24 per cent), lack of time (15 per cent) and lack of trust (13 per cent).
  • Reflecting on the biggest changes introduced by the government in the past 30 years, small-business owners nominated the introduction of GST (41 per cent) as the most significant, followed by the introduction of compulsory superannuation (27 per cent), and the arrival of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
  • The most impactful technological changes coming were seen as Artificial Intelligence (30 per cent), followed by STP at (17 per cent), 5G (16 per cent), and robots and driverless vehicles both at 14 per cent.
  • The most useful online technologies for running a business were nominated as cloud accounting software (25 per cent), social media for marketing (21 per cent), e-commerce (14 per cent), and Customer Relationship Management software (eight per cent).

Matthew Prouse, Head of Industry at Xero Australia, said it was the role of government, accountants and bookkeepers to help small businesses navigate regulatory changes and help them understand that switching to STP was not as complex as it may seem.

“Small-business owners are run off their feet and often don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of all of the new technologies,” Prouse said. “Our research found that there is a tension between small-business owners being positive about the potential of technology and the barriers to adoption that stops them moving ahead. It’s a classic change management situation where we need to connect the need for change to a clear benefit they can achieve. This is particularly crucial in relation to boosting the uptake of STP.

“Advisors need to work with small-business owners to help them navigate the process of understanding that STP adoption will provide them with a major boost to their business on a range of measures from efficiency to time saving and accuracy,” Prouse concluded.

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