Tech-averse SMEs driving with the handbrake on

Almost half – 41 per cent – of Australia’s accountants and bookkeepers say at least half of their SME clients provide paper documentation rather than electronic, according to data put together by MYOB.

As well as a reliance on hard copy documentation, 20 per cent of respondents say less than half of their SME clients use accounting software. Among the main barriers identified is an aversion to online technologies (30 per cent), a finding supported by MYOB’s last Business Monitor report, which showed just under a fifth (19 per cent) of SMEs plan to increase their investment in IT systems and processes.

MYOB Chief Product Officer, David Weickhardt, said the recent announcement that federal government will commit to electronic invoicing shows the dial is shifting to place online as a priority for all business.

“These major shifts we’re seeing in the way Australia will do business require a habit change,” Weickhardt said. “Most of the time, those changes seem more daunting than they actually are and in truth, it’s a lot harder to keep track of paper receipts than it is to adopt technology that does it for you. The shoebox should be a thing of the past.”

It’s not just the benefits of accounting software that tech-averse SMEs are missing out on. Of the 523 accountants and bookkeepers surveyed, 53 per cent said less than a quarter of their SME clients use apps, add-ons or product innovations to help run their businesses.

Of those who don’t, the main reason is they don’t believe their business is complex enough to justify their use (50 per cent), they don’t have the technical skills (44 per cent) or the cost is too high (43 per cent). There’s also a large percentage who don’t understand the benefit these tools can provide for their business (41 per cent).

“It’s a common misconception that smaller businesses don’t need accounting software or business management tools, but they underestimate the disadvantage they’re putting themselves at,” Weickhardt said. “For businesses of all sizes, having online solutions will save the business owners time, reduce error and greatly help with forecasting and budgeting. These solutions allow the business owner to get back to doing what they love, rather than spending time on paperwork or compliance.”

Of the respondents, 42 per cent say they’re the main business advisor to at least three-quarters of their clients. The top “non-traditional” services offered includes business reporting and monitoring, general business coaching and tech support.

Weickhardt said, “The breadth of advice accountants and bookkeepers provide to SMEs shows how much crossover there is and how well placed they are to introduce business owners to innovations that will help them efficiently run their business.”

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