Cloud, mobile and big data on SME agendas

SMEs look to technology to improve efficiencies, save money and optimise processes.

Lance Harris
By Lance Harris, freelancer
Johannesburg, 02 Sept 2014

South African SMEs plan to ramp up their spending on mobile technology, cloud computing and big data in the months to come. That's one of the key findings of the SME 2014 study conducted by Boston Consulting Group and Ipsos MORI Research on behalf of Microsoft South Africa.

The report, which sheds light on how and why local SMEs are investing in IT, finds SMEs share many of the same technology priorities and concerns as their larger counterparts. Sixty percent of SMEs see mobile solutions as a priority for future IT investment, while around half see cloud computing (53%) and big data (54%) as important areas of investment for the months to come. Less than half (45%) regard social media as a key area for investment.

The report indicates that 64% of respondents believe their current level of IT expenditure is about right, while 28% believe it's too low. But only 6% believe they're spending too much money on technology. Just under half (47%) predict that IT spending will form less than 10% of overall operating costs in the next year, though 27% say they don't know how much of their operating budget they will spend on IT.

Loss of control

Improving internal efficiencies (91%), optimising key business processes (90%) and reducing cost (87%) are the three objectives SMEs believe are most important when making IT investment decisions. Their biggest concern when acquiring new IT solutions is data security and loss of control of data, cited by 95% of respondents. Reliability (95%) and cost (94%) are also key concerns.

They are less concerned about the impact technology will have on their workforces. Around half (48%) are worried that new technology might replace employees, while 55% think they may need to hire new employees to cope with new IT. Over eight in 10 (84%) fear technology might lead to employees wasting time.

The research also reveals that IT tools as Web sites, apps, online tools and social media pages have become more widely used by SMEs over the past three years. Most notably, South African SMEs are considerably more likely to have a company social media page or account today than in 2011 (42% today, 18% in 2011).