Published on the 23/06/2020 | Written by Heather Wright
Small business, big tech plans…
While Covid-19 lockdowns may have wracked havoc on economies, when it comes to fast-tracking digitisation and digital transformation for SMEs, it turns out they can be big drivers.
A new survey of Australian SMEs by Gartner’s Capterra Australia shows the majority of respondents see technology as an ally to help them through the pandemic’s tough times, with many already having made new investments, largely in software to assist with remote working.
While the Capterra survey doesn’t cover New Zealand, anecdotal evidence suggests Kiwi SMBs haven’t been lax in their IT development in recent months, with a stringent New Zealand lockdown forcing the rapid adoption of both work from home and e-commerce initiatives.
“Investing in fundamental technologies was a key response during the pandemic – and one that will continue helping them weather the storm during the recession.”
E-commerce across both countries boomed as Australian’s and Kiwis were ordered to stay home: In Australia PayPal reported a 54 percent rise in sales on its platform during Covid restrictions, while in New Zealand, Emarsys and GoodData figures saw e-commerce sales peak up 189 percent year on year in mid-April.
The Capterra survey of 458 Australian employed by SMEs (three-quarters of whom were decision makers), shows 78 percent of respondents felt software would be critical or moderately critical to their survival. A further nine percent said they were investing in non-business essential software.
The most popular software acquired during the pandemic revolved primarily around remote working and collaboration software – remote desktop software, videoconferencing, collaboration, live chat and webinar software.
The report also shows that the pandemic caught most SME’s off-guard: Just 49 percent had a business continuity plan in place.
“Capterra’s research highlights how SMEs in Australia were rapidly forced into a back-to-basics mentality,” Anna Hammond, Capterra Australia content analyst, says. “Investing in fundamental technologies (such as remote work software) to allow them to operate virtually was a key response during the pandemic – and one that will continue helping them weather the storm during the recession.”
While they may have been caught off guard, they weren’t flat footed in their responses, quickly swinging into action, reprioritising budgets to invest in essential technology. More than two-thirds said they changed their investment plans and of that number 48 percent admitted they didn’t have any software acquisitions or upgrades in their plans before lockdown but had their hands forced by the pandemic. Twenty percent already had budget allocated for software but moved it to a different area of the business.
And 79 percent of respondents say their business needs new software to stay productive in a virtual working environment.
Topping the list for software acquisitions they have invested in, or plan to invest in, are collaboration (39 percent) software and software for internal processes (25 percent) and product delivery (15 percent).
An earlier survey from Capterra, in April, found that 41 percent of Australian SMEs had already bought or installed new software to enable them to work remotely.
“While the idea of digitisation may have been an overwhelming idea for many before, post-COvid-19 suggests something different,” Capterra says. “With the majority of employees (93 percent) quickly and easily adapting to new tools, there is an incentive for companies to continue updating technological resources in the future.”
It’s not just software either. IDC says Covid-19 drove a 5.2 percent growth in the Australian PC market in Q1, as demand for notebooks surged 5.5 percent thanks to work from home. More than one million devices were sold during the quarter, including 744,000 notebooks.
In New Zealand the PC market was up 3.4 percent, reaching 168,184 units.
It’s a trend IDC says it expects to see continue in Q2 figures.
Hammond says the pandemic – or more specifically the lockdowns as Australia and New Zealand sought to minimise the human impact of the virus – has helped accelerate digitisation.
KPMG is another firmly pushing the mantra that the pandemic provides ‘a time for SMEs to fundamentally change business models for a sustainable future’.
“If there is one thing that COVID-19 has demonstrated very clearly is that investment in digital technology is not a luxury. Technology is not only critical to operate during these times, but it requires significant focus and attention post COVID-19 if organisations are to remain competitive and resilient in the ‘new normal’.”
It’s advocating cloud – for those not already on the cloud-wagon – to remove dependencies of physical data centres and provide a secure platform, accessible anywhere, anytime; and anything-as-a-service, not just for technology but for activities, processes and functions.
Automation is also flagged as a one of the key principles for digital transformation that SMEs should be considering now.
“Small and medium businesses tend to rely on manual processes and tasks,” KPMG says. “Some of these tasks are repetitive, for example, overtyping the customer information from a website form record to a CRM system, or extracting project information to create a month-end report or updating payroll information.
“Automating repeatable tasks can provide significant benefits to your organisation. It can also allow you to repurpose your workforce efforts to more valuable tasks, when done in conjunction with broader technology investment priorities.”