SMEs believe businesses must digitise to survive

Small-to-medium sized enterprises’ (SMEs) are positioning themselves to benefit from data-driven digitalisation in the workplace. Some 62 per cent believe that technology change is going to have a strong impact on the competitive landscape in their market in the next three years. As a result, SMEs looking to future proof their business are implementing cloud business software solutions to boost productivity and achieve simultaneous compliance in multiple regions.

These are among the findings of research into the challenges facing SME sectors such as accountancy, manufacturing and distribution in 2016 commissioned by Exact and carried out by Pb7 Research. The study looked in detail at how companies in these sectors are using online systems to save labour and speed up interactions. Pb7 conducted in-depth surveys with 2,500 professionals across Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US.

Innovation for evolving competition

Those who do not innovate will be left behind. Three quarters of respondents reported being aware of the threat of new competitors offering more advanced or disruptive business models, while 35 per cent believe that they will be out of business within five years if they do not optimise their business models now.

Demand for quicker access to business information

Companies are increasingly looking to business information technology to provide new efficiencies, with 54 per cent of businesses now actively exploring new business models. As a result, SMEs are increasingly able to redirect resources previously expended on back-office administration such as data entry to provide services which have traditionally been the preserve of large-scale organisations.

Many firms now have immediate access to consolidated business-critical data. Over a third (34 per cent) of professionals surveyed said they could get a complete overview of company performance with a single push of a button. This increased availability of information is driving profit growth, with data-led businesses reporting an average profit margin of 22 per cent for FY15, in comparison to 14 per cent for businesses reporting limited use of data.

“The use of technology to reduce time spent on routine tasks and deepen business insight means that accountancy firms and the wider SME economy are entering a new period of rapid growth and efficiency,” said Erik van der Meijden, CEO of Exact. “As customer demands become ever more stringent, we are seeing entrepreneurial businesses like accountants taking advantage of automated systems to broaden their service offerings without the need to take on heavy administration loads. Exact provides ambitious SMEs with the technology and services they need to grow beyond their limits. As a result, companies are becoming increasingly agile, adapting to customer demands and market fluctuations in real time.”

For more information and for examples of how SMEs are using cloud services to be more agile and competitive, please visit

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