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Threat or opportunity? Digital disruption divides SME sector

12 Jul 2016

Digital disruption is sometimes taken with a grain of salt and, according to the latest results from the The Voice of Australian Business survey, Australia's small-to-medium enterprises (SME) are still adjusting.

The survey looked at SMEs across all industries and regions while businesses were evenly divided depending on whether they thought digital disruption was a threat or an opportunity.

25% saw it as an opportunity while 29% saw it as a threat. 

Michael Ruggiero, managing partner, Bentleys SA, says the split between those who see it as a threat compared to an opportunity points to a lack of understanding. 

“We are seeing that SMEs that are proactively embracing digital technologies, particularly in the manufacturing and agribusiness sectors, are reaping the opportunities in how it can effectively improve or even change their business model and operations completely. However, according to our research, that is only a quarter of businesses. Given the rate of development of digital technologies, it's somewhat surprising this figure isn't higher," says Ruggiero.

“The ones who are seeing it as threat are worried it will disrupt their traditional way of approaching their business – essentially upsetting the applecart. However, when integrated properly digital technologies should create efficiencies that not only improve the bottom line but free up time for business owners to spend on more important activities such as deepening customer relationships and gathering data that creates more meaningful client interactions or better products and services,” he adds. 

Here are the key findings: 

  • Small businesses were most positive about digital disruption, with 18 per cent seeing it as a significant opportunity, compared to only eight per cent of medium businesses and six per cent of micro businesses.
  • 16 per cent of medium businesses foresee greater difficulty in adapting to technological change due to the larger size of the systems that would need to change, followed by six per cent of small businesses and 10 per cent of micro businesses.
  • Over half of the businesses surveyed (60 per cent) said they use technology to cut time spent on administration, followed by marketing (53 per cent,) remote access (50 per cent) and improving cash flow (43 per cent)
  • The survey also revealed medium businesses were more enthusiastic about potential benefits in automated invoicing (56 per cent,) recruitment (55 per cent,) and reducing staff costs (49 per cent).

"Embracing digital disruption isn’t about up hauling your entire business model or operations. Rather it’s about using technologies in a smart way to complement and boost your current practices.” 

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