Computerworld

What are the two key barriers preventing NZ SMEs from embracing tech changes?

"The latest innovations - from the cloud, to business intelligence - are transforming the way we do business."

Almost 60 percent of New Zealand’s small to medium-sized enterprises say the pace of technology development is ‘about right’, but cost, government regulation and finding the right staff are making it harder to get the full benefit of innovation.

That’s according to the latest MYOB Business Monitor survey, which also claims that almost half (47 per cent) of the more than 1,000 SME business operators interviewed for the survey have acquired new computer hardware or software in the last year.

Yet perhaps more tellingly, 33 per cent report cost as a major barrier to adopting technological innovation, 19 per cent are concerned government regulation is holding them back, and 12 per cent cite a lack of appropriately skilled staff.

Most respondents in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are comfortable with the pace of change.

However, 21 per cent of business operators outside of the main centres feel they are struggling to keep up with the latest innovations in technology.

Business operators in the transport and logistics industry (26 per cent), the agriculture sector (23 per cent) and manufacturing and wholesale (21 per cent) are also more likely to feel technology is changing too fast.

MYOB New Zealand CEO Tim Reed says keeping pace with rapidly changing technology is ‘the new normal’ for businesses, which stand to gain considerable benefits from the latest innovations.

“The latest innovations - from the cloud, to business intelligence - are transforming the way we do business,” he says.

“While it can take some effort to keep pace with emerging and evolving technologies - especially if they are not yet commonplace in your sector - it is worth the investment.

“The benefits include improved productivity and efficiency, greater ability to reach and interact with new customers, and having access to real-time information to support better decision making.”

Satisfaction levels

Reed says one of the keys to business adoption of technology is good quality internet access at a fair price.

“Access to the internet has become one of the essential resources for modern business - something that needs to be continually addressed at a national level,” he adds.

Satisfaction with internet access (speed and reliability) has slipped in the latest MYOB Business Monitor, from 49 per cent in March 2015 to 40 per cent in September - levels of dissatisfaction have also climbed from 29 per cent to 34 per cent.

Businesses in the Hawkes Bay (41 per cent) and Waikato (40 per cent) are most unhappy with their internet access, while the Manuwatu/Wanganui region has the highest level of satisfaction (48 per cent).

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Meanwhile, rural businesses are also more likely to be unhappy with the speed and reliability of their internet service, with 41 per cent dissatisfied.

UFB roll-out

While 60 per cent of SME operators believe an Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) connection would have a positive benefit for their business - including 17 per cent who say the benefit would be significant - just 22 per cent of local businesses report having UFB access in the Business Monitor.

Business operators believe the key benefits of UFB access would be to improve their connection (61 per cent) and speed (61 per cent), as well as providing them with better access to data (27 per cent), improved use of cloud computing apps and services (23 per cent) and reduced telecommunications costs (21 per cent).

The most connected city is Auckland (28 per cent), while Christchurch still remains significantly behind on just 18 per cent (up from 16 per cent in March).

Bay of Plenty (27 per cent) has the largest number of businesses using a UFB service in the regions, while the Otago Southland region, the location of Chorus’ Dunedin ‘Gigatown’, has the lowest at just 12 per cent.

Security

Consistent with the Business Monitor survey released in March this year, two-thirds of SME operators are concerned about their security online.

Key security concerns for local SMEs are:

  1. Hackers gaining access to data (42 per cent)
  2. Losing access to data (37 per cent)
  3. Losing control of data (32 per cent)
  4. Competitors accessing data (11 per cent)
  5. Data surveillance by foreign and local governments (10 per cent)

More local businesses online

Half of local SMEs now have an online presence and the survey highlights a marked difference in performance between businesses with an online presence and those without a website or social media site.

Over the last 12 months, 40 per cent of businesses with a website saw an increase in revenue, compared to 25 per cent of businesses without a website.

Over half (54 per cent) said being online generated more enquiries and leads, 48 per cent say their website made it easier for customers to do business and 37 per cent had more interaction with customers.

The data also showed that 34 per cent of SMEs say being online allowed them to be more competitive.

“After tracking the technology adoption of New Zealand SMEs for over three years, we can quite clearly say that businesses that are online and keeping pace with technology are doing better across every performance measure,” Reed adds.

“In order to ensure the New Zealand economy continues to derive the maximum benefit technology can bring, it’s important that businesses make the most of every innovation available.

“From ensuring the availability of skilled, trained staff to driving the roll-out of UFB harder - particularly into the regions - this is something that deserves national attention from Government, business agencies and technology and telecommunications providers.

“Making it as easy as possible for businesses to adopt technology will have a profound effect in creating a diverse, competitive and internationally-engaged New Zealand economy.”