Social media, smartphones and tablets are top technology needs for SMBs, right? Well, actually, it would seem not.
Yes, they are important, but not as important as desktops, landlines and laptops, according to Microsoft-sponsored Ipsos research. It shows that while small to medium size businesses (SMB) love technology, only 30 percent have adopted new kinds of technology, like cloud computing.
The comprehensive survey covers many of the IT buzz words making the rounds at the moment. To say it is an eye-opener would be an understatement. The study was carried out on behalf of Microsoft from April 29 to May 7 across 551 small business owners who were identified by Ipsos within a representative sample of 5,149 US adults over the age of 18.
SMB Technology Concerns
In all the media coverage of current computing trends, there is the bottom line assumption that just because new technologies are available, everyone is going to use them.
For SMBs, it seems, the opposite is the case. It's not because they are un interested, or because they won’t invest, but because some of the original concerns about these new technologies have not been addressed.
In this respect it is worth noting that the top three technology concerns of SMB owners were:
- Costs to maintain or upgrade the business’s technology (35 percent)
- Security (22 percent)
- The ability to access content from multiple devices in any location (16 percent)
Keeping Up With IT
For vendors who are working in these areas, this represents a business opportunity that cannot be passed up given that 86 percent of SMB owners globally say that keeping up with technology trends is important to their business. This includes 50 percent who believe that's " very important" and another 36 percent who say it is " somewhat important."
But it is the kind of technologies that SMBs are rating that is really surprising. Asked to rate the importance of different technologies to their business, the results showed that "traditional" technologies are still tops. SMBs rated the following technologies in order of importance to them:
- Laptop computers (68 percent)
- Desktop computers (67 percent)
- Smartphones (60 percent)
- Landlines (52 percent)
- Productivity applications (47 percent)
- Tablets (34 percent)
- Social media apps (34 percent)
- Payment technologies (31 percent)
These basics figures suggest that the traditional PC market is far from dead and that companies like Dell, or HP, or even Microsoft, have a good case for sticking to their guns despite disastrous figures from independent research groups like Gartner.
They also show that social media is not as prevalent in SMBs as might be expected, although this may reflect slow adoption rather than resistance to the use of such tools.
SMB Working Patterns
The figures also threw up some other interesting factoids on the way people work, which has a significant impact on the kind of technology they are going to use.
According to the research, only one in five SMB owners say they, and their employees, never work remotely.
A further two in five say they work remotely between 5 and 30 percent of the time.
Far more significant is the two in five workers who say they work remotely at least half of the time. Breaking this down further, this includes 16 percent who claim to work remotely 50 percent of the time, 17 percent who say that they work remotely 75 percent of the time, and 7 percent who claim to be working remotely all of the time.
One of the surprising parallels to these figures are the figures for those SMBs that are using cloud technologies for work, particularly given the widely accepted view that cloud computing makes remote working easier. However, the research showed that 36 percent of SMBs say that they manually collect and store content on their hard drives.
It also seems that the concept of a paperless office is still only a pipedream for many as 26 percent are still using filing cabinets and folders to collect, store and share content and information.
Only a quarter are using online storage services along with either email (14 percent), or a combination of email and online collaboration tools (12 percent), for enterprise collaboration. In light of this it is somewhat surprising to see that only 12 percent of SMB owners say they do not have a good solution for collecting storing and sharing content.
Given the above figures, it is probable that many more don’t have efficient collaboration or storage tools and don’t realize that this is the case, which makes the problem even worse.
The bottom line here is that only 30 percent of SMBs are using cloud computing while 60 percent don't. Strange as it may sound, another 10 percent don’t know even what cloud computing is. In terms of applications used, the research showed that SMBs are using:
- Email (84 percent)
- Texting (53 percent).
- Calendaring (29 percent)
- Online storage (27 percent)
- File sharing (24 percent)
- Website development tools (21 percent)
Nearly two in five small business owners (37 percent) also report they use technologies not intended for business, including home computing and personal cell phones, as well as home or student edition software packages.
The figures are particularly striking in light of the fact that 70 percent of those surveyed said that they are able to react more intelligently and quickly to their customers using technology, with 38 percent saying technology helps them compete with other SMBs or even large companies.
So what's the problem? Why the delay is using easily accessible technologies? If, as 60 percent believe, it increases revenues, what are the obstacles?
The biggest hurdle was the perceived cost of maintaining and upgrading technology (35 percent), particularly among businesses that use outside vendors to manage tech support (48 percent). Some noted the challenges posed by security issues (22 percent) and mobility (16 percent). Other problems include:
- Breaks in service (13 percent)
- Server/ infrastructure management (9 percent)
- Lack of dedicated IT resources (8 percent)
- Version control (7 percent) are challenges faced by their business.
These are only some of the findings of this poll that appears to show that many of the assumptions about the use of new technologies are not founded in real-life situations.
It should also be pointed out that this poll was carried out in the US, which has an IT infrastructure considerably developed than anywhere else, including Europe and the developing world.
If the poll shows that there is a significant opportunity for vendors that can convince US SMBs to change their habits, then there is double that opportunity in Europe and further a field.