Online survey aimed at boosting SME productivity

Productivity can be enhanced by investing in the right kind of IT, says Ice Lab director

Small enterprises in New Zealand often have issues to do with productivity that could be improved with the help of IT. Now the Ice Lab — the research arm of Auckland business incubator The Icehouse — has stepped in to help, conducting a survey with the ultimate aim of increasing local SMEs’ productivity.

Called the Ice Lab Productivity Project, the joint venture between the Icehouse and the University of Auckland Business School aims to conduct around 400 online surveys. These will then be put together with information from 30-plus in-depth interviews with IT decision-makers and SME owners or managers, says Ice Lab director Julia Brannigan.

The Ice Lab looks at issues that affect SME growth, such as internationalisation, productivity, sustainability, staffing and resources, with the aim of using its research findings to help SMEs grow more successfully, she says.

“One of things we are very aware of is that the level of productivity per employee in New Zealand could be improved,” she says.

Productivity can be enhanced by investing in the right kind of IT, she says. But, historically, SMEs have tended to be quite reluctant to take up new technologies.

The project will identify what kind of IT systems companies currently have in place and how they are using them. The research will also try to identify the main barriers to upgrading or adopting new technologies, says Brannigan. The goal is to understand how SMEs can optimise the use of technology to lift productivity, she says — and to find out what kind of communication and support SMEs need to help take up technology to the point where it really works for them.

Anyone interested has until the end of November to take part in the online survey. The in-depth interviews will be conducted in November and December, and the information will then be collated early next year. Brannigan plans to produce a paper based on the results that will be available through the Icehouse and the University of Auckland Business School from March.

The Ice Lab is also looking at organising business seminars — perhaps breakfast or early evening sessions — where the findings of the survey will be presented and discussed, she says.

Brannigan ran a market research consultancy in the UK before re-locating to New Zealand two years ago.

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