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Growth expected as more businesses invest in technology

World Savings Day: Viresh Harduth, vice president: small business at Sage Africa and Middle East. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn
Viresh Harduth, vice president: small business at Sage Africa and Middle East. Photo: Supplied/Ventureburn

In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, many small and medium business owners plan to accelerate technology spending to achieve even more. Now, a new global study shows that 70% of South African SMBs expect their investment in technology to increase in the next year, writes Viresh Harduth, vice president: small business at Sage Africa & Middle East.

The study, entitled “Small business, big opportunity?”, shows that 70% of South African small and medium businesses (SMBs) expect their investment in technology to increase in the next year.

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From investing in their websites and refreshing hardware to upping their spending on e-commerce, digital marketing and customer relationship management (CRM), SMBs are earmarking significant digital, and IT budgets for the months to come. This reflects their growing confidence in an economic recovery, despite events in Ukraine, higher fuel prices, and the pandemic.

There is a growing acknowledgement that smart technology investments can pay for themselves multiple times over by enabling a business to cut costs and improve profitability or increasing top-line revenues. As we saw throughout the pandemic, technology is key to SMB resilience, giving businesses the agility to thrive through difficult times.

Another factor driving digital adoption is that the cloud and software-as-a-service models dramatically reduce upfront costs, deployment times, and risks of introducing new IT applications and systems. To get real value from their technology investments, however, it is important that SMBs create a sound business case for each investment.

The goal shouldn’t be to simply spend on technology but to drive a specific business outcome. Here are six key reasons we’re seeing SMBs invest in improving their IT capabilities:

Allowing routine processes to run hands-free

We’re operating in a volatile market with considerable inflationary pressure, and SMBs need to be efficient and flexible. Automation enables them to focus their human resources on strategy, customer service, and other value-added areas while routine processes run hands-free. Moving from time-consuming, inaccurate, and manual means of financial recordkeeping, for example, frees up human time and improves process accuracy and consistency.

Business insights drive growth

Innovative technology provides SMBs with the visibility, flexibility, and efficiency to manage finances, operations, and people. They can use real-time data from human resources, payroll and accounting platforms to get an accurate view of business performance, forecast future trends and, ultimately, improve their profitability.

Strengthening SMB resilience

With the right technology in place, SMBs can better adapt to change. Today’s cloud-based technology, for example, enables the work-from-anywhere and digital commerce models that allow SMBs to keep operating through uncertain times such as a pandemic. Furthermore, technology enables them to anticipate and respond to business threats and risks and is key to ensuring compliance with tax law and regulations.

Transforming how SMBs acquire, engage and manage people

In addition to streamlining manual processes, technologies like HR and payroll systems can be transformative for an SMB’s employee experience. For those seeking to become innovative people companies, integration between payroll and HR systems can enable self-service experiences that empower the workforce. Employees can use self-service on their mobile devices or computers to review and update their information, access payslips, apply for leave, and more.

Reinventing the customer experience

After Covid-19, consumer behaviour changed, and customers expect more. Businesses have needed to up their game, offering better service while making it easier for customers to shop and pay how and when they want. Our survey showed that 40% of South African SMBs are investing in their websites, and as many in CRM systems – this indicates that many SMBs are focusing on offering multi-channel experiences for their customers across the real world and the web.

Preparing for good times and bad

The pandemic has given SMBs a renewed appreciation for the importance of running agile, up-to-date IT systems. The right technology can position an SMB to grow and move swiftly to take advantage of new business opportunities. Equally, it can help SMBs navigate abrupt changes in their operating environments. As we look beyond the worst of COVID, now is ideal for SMBs to look at much-needed technology changes and upgrades, such as embracing cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning capabilities.

ALSO READ: 7 ways your accountant can support your business growth

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