Let’s Talk: Technology trends – What are the threats and opportunities for SMEs?

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Judicious adoption of new technologies can undoubtedly provide businesses with a competitive edge. Technology helps improve productivity, enhance the customer experience, and increase your ability to respond to rapidly changing markets.

But it’s not all good news for SMEs. It can be challenging for business owners to keep up to date with ever-changing technological advances, security risks are on the rise, and technology failures can cripple a business if the proper safeguards aren’t in place.

So, is technology our friend or foe?

Let’s talk…

Laurel Grey, senior digital analyst, RSM Australia 

“SMEs face more competition than ever before with many businesses moving online during COVID-19. By not keeping up with cloud technology adoption, SMEs risk falling behind competitors that deliver goods and services significantly cheaper and faster. 

“Businesses selling goods online, for example, have a myriad of eCommerce and fulfilment options that make the entire ordering process seamless, including printing shipping labels and organising cost-effective couriers totally hands-free. Service-based businesses can almost fully automate the entire sales cycle using applications that connect to their cloud accounting package and record and reconcile sales seamlessly. 

“The opportunity for SMEs is to move processes away from how they have always done them towards using cloud-based solutions to introduce best practice processes and workflows.”

Ian Raper, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, Check Point Software Technologies

“With the increased adoption of remote workforces, we’ve seen Australian SMEs experience a surge in cyberattacks. Check Point Threat Intelligence data reveals an Australian organisation is being attacked, on average, 406 times a week in the last 6 months. So, SMEs can clearly benefit from improving their security posture to protect their business, employees and customers.

“Most cyberattacks can be prevented from impacting us by taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity. For SMEs, it’s adopting a preventative mindset, as it is easier and far less costly to eliminate potential threats, rather than to remediate after you’ve been compromised.

“For SMEs who are time-poor or lack the human resources and skills to navigate security challenges, it is essential to implement automated security policies to help you better identify, prevent and manage cyber incidents.

“Speaking to a cybersecurity expert can help you navigate the best path forward to prevent the impact of cyberattacks and close the security gap by protecting your business against the rapidly evolving threat landscape.”

Jo-ann Chung, Chief Product Officer, WLTH

“Technology is here to make life easier, especially for SMEs, as it helps them to scale quickly and streamline processes. With anything that is new and requires implementation into a business, there is always the potential risk of disruption during this process, and in many instances the cost to the business can be pricey.

“Although there are some short-term threats, which can be overcome with diligent planning and execution, the benefits can often pay its weight in spades. Through the adoption of technology, SMEs will be able to transition their business processes to be more digital than ever before. At WLTH, we are excited about the future opportunities that will be available for SMEs to streamline payments processes, help manage cash flow, and remove some of the financial pressures on SME owners.

“Overall, technology trends will play a powerful role in the continued growth of the SME market, and the companies that implement these changes now, will put themselves ahead of their competition.”

Andy Hurt, Managing Director, Poly ANZ

“The pandemic has driven innovation in technology, with many new and exciting services and solutions arriving on the market. Moving to the cloud and running unified communications offers huge opportunities in mobility, collaboration and agility. It’s easy to scale up and down and add features and functionality as required.

“But before investing in new technology, SMEs need to consider employee work styles. How and where are employees working, and what specific solutions do they need to improve workflows and increase productivity? What works for some may not suit all. 

“Hybrid working is the future, so SMEs need to ensure that hybrid working is enabled. There’s no point investing in fixed/desk-based solutions if staff are (or will be) working remotely 50% of the time. Being adaptable and flexible is critical, which means investing in mobile and scaleable solutions. Rigidity in business plans results in a lack of competitiveness.”

Adam Boote, Director of Digital and Growth, Localsearch 

“Particularly in the past year, we’ve seen some dramatic threats to small businesses in the technology space, including the Media Bargaining Code saw Facebook pull news and media accounts down from the platform (albeit temporarily), Apple iOS updates changing privacy access and further Google algorithm shakeups.

“The digital channels we rely on are unstable, no matter how giant. There are unlimited external factors and decisions that can affect the way we — consumers, businesses and society — operate online. Having a personally owned channel to communicate with your clients — a website that you own and host — is essential. 

“It’s a knock-on effect when one tech giant or government body implements a new software or law. It’s important to stay across the changes and challenges coming and how you, as a business, can overcome them and push through.

“In that, opportunities lie in Google My Business, hiring the right talent and building a positive workplace culture.”

Ben Pfisterer, CEO and co-founder, Zeller

“In 2020, consumers rapidly evolved how they make payments — shifting from cash to pay quickly and safely in COVID-19’s contactless world.  As a result, businesses need payment tools that align with modern consumer expectations. The acceleration towards digital payments means SMEs must be ready to accept contactless cards, mobile wallets and even QR codes. 

“Speed and convenience shape consumer habits. Smartphones are in every pocket, and wearable tech is an affordable accessory; making a payment via the tap of a wrist is now a customer expectation. The risk of not accepting a preferred payment choice is no longer just your customer’s frustration — it’s lost revenue, with 1 in 5 consumers no longer carrying cash at all. 

“Setting your business up with an affordable EFTPOS solution, with no recurring monthly costs and the ability to accept every payment type (including new forms like QR codes), will future-proof against the disappearance of cash.”

James Haslam, Chief Financial Officer, ELMO Software

“Technology is an enormous opportunity for SMEs looking to improve workforce productivity, automate time consuming processes and become more agile.

“One of the more exciting opportunities for SMEs is the rapid development of artificial intelligence to analyse massive volumes of data to provide actionable predictions and insights. For instance, data about the behaviours and actions of your employees can provide insights into potential flight risk. With that information to hand, businesses can intervene and retain top talent before it’s too late.

“A real threat for SMEs is not keeping pace with the technological developments that are filtering through the economy. If your competitors are investing in technology but you aren’t, those gains in productivity and efficiency will soon see those competitors leapfrog their peers.” 


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By Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.