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Research Exact: Compliance an increasing focus area for SMEs

Approaching GDPR deadline influences the list of business challenges in the Netherlands

Delft, February 28, 2018 – Within two years, regulatory compliance has risen to become a high priority for SMEs in the Netherlands. This is one of the outcomes from the SME Barometer, research on trends and developments in the SME market, initiated by Exact. Almost a quarter of the respondents (23%) highlighted compliance as one of their top priorities. A significant increase when compared to the results of the last SME Barometer (2016) when compliance was rated important for only 8% of respondents.

What also stands out in the research is that businesses employing up to 50 people have a different set of priorities than companies with 50 to 250 employees. In the first category, attracting new customers is the most important business challenge (66%), followed by increasing the quality of products and services (40%) and cost control (36%). For the larger companies improving quality of their offerings tops the list (52%), followed by developing new services and products (40%) and cost control (39%).

“The rise of compliance as a priority is not surprising considering the approaching deadline to be GDPR compliant. This requires several changes in the way a business organizes its processes and information security,” said Paul Ramakers COO of Exact. “Some might see this as a burden, but it actually creates momentum to optimize business processes throughout all layers of an organization. In addition to ensuring that GDPR changes comply with new regulations, businesses should also focus on streamlining their operations. With the right processes in place they will be more efficient and have a deeper insight and understanding of their data. They will have a clearer view of opportunities and business challenges and will be able to address them in the right way.”

The shifting role of data

To work on their business priorities, SMEs have to make daily decisions that range from answering questions from customer, to business planning and financial forecasting. The SME Barometer shows that while most rely on data in their decision-making process, the role that data analysis plays is shifting. For 16% of the companies with up to 250 employees, data is always leading. A decline of 10% when compared to 2016. 72% say that data is sometimes leading and sometimes supporting (+13% vs 2016). Of the businesses with up to 50 employees, 14% say data is always leading, which is stable compared to 2016. 37% say data is sometimes leading sometimes supporting (-10% vs 2016) and 23% report that data has a very limited role.

Ramakers added: “It is interesting to observe that in the decision-making process, qualitative sources of intelligence are becoming increasingly important. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but at the same time we see businesses looking to base their decisions on real-time data to gain a competitive advantage. This is typically the case for processes related to interaction with customers, business planning or making investments for example.”

The research shows that many organizations are equipped with automated reporting tools to review important data. For 36% of respondents it takes just one click to get a complete real-time overview of the performance of the business (finance, operational, HR, commercial). 21% need to collect data from several databases while 6% need help from their IT department to create a report.

About Exact

Exact, founded in 1984 and headquartered in Delft, the Netherlands, develops financial management and ERP software for small and medium sized businesses and employs over 1,400 people. The customers of Exact are present in more than 100 countries and are mostly active in the accountancy, manufacturing, professional services and wholesale & distribution industries. Over 375,000 companies in the Benelux rely on Exact to support their businesses.

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