How technology will support future SME growth

The global economy is starting to show signs of recovery, and is forecast to continue to accelerate over the next two years, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A recent survey of 1,700 European small and medium enterprises (SMEs), conducted by Vodafone, revealed that 80% are confident about business growth in the coming years and half of them say that they are performing more strongly than they were in 2011.

As these green shoots emerge and economies begin to recover, SMEs across Europe are starting to feel more confident about the future and are now looking to invest to grow. The survey found that as well as boosting spending on staff, marketing and premises, technology is high on the list of priorities SMEs are investing in to drive sales and revenue.

Technology investment

From cloud services to mobile and tablets, technology is increasingly critical to business operations and is fast becoming the backbone of successful business. 82% of European SMEs have already seen direct business benefits from previous ICT investment, with 88% citing improved customer service as a result. Mobile communications enable SMEs to be constantly connected whatever the time or location. For a customer, a positive experience and immediate response is essential. If a customer is unable to get hold of someone, they will simply look for another option.

Many of these companies recognise that as they grow they will need to ensure that they are supported by the right technology. This is why 68% of SMEs said that they plan to make further ICT investment to enable a deeper and more responsive level of customer service and to support more flexible and productive working practices.

Mobile cloud technology

The adoption of cloud services alone is expected to rise from 44% of SMEs across Europe to 60% within twelve months. If the uptake in cloud continues at this rate, it will quickly shift from being viewed as a new and ’emergent’ technology, to being ranked as one of the ‘mature’ technologies that are deployed in the vast majority of businesses, with adoption between 80% and 90%. For example a company website, fixed-line broadband, smartphones, mobile voice and mobile data.

The research found that tablets are emerging as a significant area of ICT investment for SMEs. 54% deploy tablet computers in their business and this is expected to rise to 73% of businesses over the next year. The combination of tablets and cloud technology are ideal for small and medium enterprises who want to operate more flexibly and improve productivity.

Barriers to adoption

The survey also looked into barriers to adoption of technology and identified that cost stood out as a major inhibitor of further investment, cited by around 40% of respondents. Cloud and innovations built on a cloud infrastructure offer businesses a way to deploy the latest technology without heavy CAPEX investment in hardware and may help SMEs circumvent some of these barriers that exist.

As SMEs across Europe get ready for tomorrow’s new opportunities, they recognise the value of technology. They understand that the flexibility that it brings to businesses and its potential to support customer service, workforce productivity and operational agility will be vital. Most see it as fundamental to their businesses and future success and are therefore willing to invest in it.

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