SMEs becoming more efficient in technology but many still struggling

OKI Data Australia, a global manufacturer of business printers, multi-function devices, and wide format solutions, has released its 2018 OKI SME Business Efficiency Survey, which examines the ways in which Australia’s two million SMEs are working to expand and become more efficient.

Responses collected from 798 SMEs across all Australian states and territories found 83 per cent of Australian SMEs considered they were operating cost-effectively. This is only a slight variation on last year, when 82 per cent of businesses reported being in a similar position.

Failure to harness the power of technology prevents many SMEs from running their ships as tightly as they’d like to, with 48 per cent of those who believed they were operating inefficiently citing IT and business systems as an underlying cause and 30 per cent citing web site and eCommerce costs. By contrast, lack of efficiency around operational costs (26 per cent), supply chain (20 per cent) and leasing (10 per cent) was of significantly less concern to this cohort.

Conversely, around two-thirds of the SMEs which considered themselves to be running efficiently attributed their ability to do so to “efficient IT purchases”. Investments in digital marketing and e-commerce initiatives were both cited as efficiency drivers by 28 per cent of SMEs.

“The survey results this year continue to tell a tale of two companies,” said Antonio Leone, Marketing Manager, OKI Data Australia and New Zealand. “There’s a clear distinction between Australian SMEs which have identified the opportunities digital technology can deliver and strived to embrace them and SMEs which haven’t and feel they are falling down on the efficiency front as a result.”

The latter group was more likely to find IT staffing costs a burden, while for efficient organisations it was not usually an issue, according to Leone.

“One of the benefits of efficient technology is that it doesn’t need excessive resources to manage it – IT employees are effectively viewed as assets who can generate additional revenue, not components of a cost centre that are needed to keep complex technology running.”

Of the SMEs which don’t believe they are operating efficiently, the desire to improve appeared to be enormous. Close to 90 per cent of respondents stated cost efficiency was a critical component when selecting suppliers; a higher percentage than was recorded among organisations which believed were already operating efficiently.

“Regardless of whether they believe themselves to be running efficiently or not, SMEs look to partner with, and purchase from, organisations which are able to make a positive contribution to this cause,” Leone said.

Outlays are not – and need not be – large. This year’s survey found 67 per cent of SMEs spent $5000 or less on technology to improve their efficiency in 2018; up from 59 per cent in 2017. A further 21 per cent of SMEs spent between $5000 and $15,000, while just 3 per cent spent more than $100,000.

This finding illustrates the fact that investing in efficiency need not be a multi-year, multi-million dollar matter. Rather, SMEs which spend small amounts regularly and strategically can achieve significant results, according to Leone.

“Replacing aging systems, equipment and infrastructure with more modern, efficient technologies is a great opportunity for SMEs with limited resources to improve their business position,” Leone said.

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