Perspective: Investing in IT
‘Small business, big impact’
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF goto LINDSAY Brown of GoTo says companies must invest on information technology to survive a highly digitalized world.
In today’s digital age, technology is a fundamental aspect of any business’s success. However, while most companies have an IT team in place, many still struggle to bridge the gap between their business performance and IT operations. This can lead to internal pain points such as inefficient processes, poor data management, and security breaches — and may also adversely affect your customers.
To avoid these pitfalls, it is critical for businesses to work in tandem with their IT teams to identify gaps and stumbling blocks in their operations. This ensures that technology is implemented strategically and effectively, addressing the needs of the business and the customer.
Role of IT in business growth
Historically, the role of IT may have been treated as more of a support function with limited impact on critical business operations. Today, it wields a substantial influence on the growth trajectory of a business.
We commissioned market research firm Frost & Sullivan to conduct a survey on the perspectives of more than 1,000 IT decision-makers last year from companies with less than 1,000 employees across markets and industries.
The survey found the three main business objectives of SMEs this year, to be increasing revenue (38 percent), improving operational efficiencies (29 percent) and increasing customer satisfaction (28 percent).
Prioritizing IT could be a game-changer in achieving these goals. Working with various SMEs over the years, I’ve seen first-hand how they’ve benefited from better productivity and customer satisfaction from investing in the right IT tools.
It is encouraging then that the survey also uncovered the influence that IT teams now have in the purchase of tools — 47 percent for IT support and management tools, 39 percent for communication and collaboration, and 37 percent for customer engagement tools.
A study by International Data Corporation predicts that by 2025, 65 percent of Asia-based organizations will prioritize cloud infrastructure as their primary location for data storage and analysis. Additionally, by 2027, digital infrastructure is projected to generate 43 percent of business revenue in the Asia-Pacific region.
As technology advances, IT will undoubtedly play an integral role in ensuring the safety and resilience of these digital spaces.
Mixed perceptions of SMEs on IT
Sixty-five percent of IT teams have responded that they have seen workloads surge in the last year, owing to added responsibilities, and complications arising from remote/hybrid work. Survey respondents also indicated that their time is mostly wasted on operational tasks such as supporting employees working remotely/in hybrid mode, calling the customer support, and supporting and troubleshooting employee issues.
Ninety-two percent of our survey respondents say that reducing IT burden is an important initiative. With 64 percent seeing an increase in IT budgets by almost 60 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, more than half (56 percent) consider IT spending an investment. However, 42 percent remain unconvinced and still perceive it as a cost; so much so that value for money is the main driver when choosing new IT software, especially among SMEs with sub-50 employee size (41 percent).
A recent piece by the World Economic Forum revealed that Philippine SMEs, despite comprising 99.5 percent of the country’s businesses, underperform having to account for only 36 percent of value added to the economy. WEF suggests that transforming to digital and shifting to new ways of doing business can stop the growth of this gap.
However, local firms (54 percent) consider a lack of financial means as the top concern in adopting new technology, according to a 2021 survey by the World Bank with the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority. These challenges prevent local businesses from reaching their full potential in the digital economy.
There needs to be an urgent shift in the way we perceive IT and recognize its potential to help build a resilient and successful business for the future.
IT consolidation can alleviate the burden of IT teams
The survey found that 83 percent of SMEs consider the consolidation of tools an important initiative for 2023, with the top three reasons being an increase in employee productivity (50 percent), ease of management for IT teams (49 percent), and cost savings (41 percent).
To achieve these, 41 percent plan to switch vendors. However, switching vendors can be a challenging task with so many choices out there. Having been through this myself, I would say that the top factors for any vendor-customer relationship are reliability and trust. Majority of respondents also say they work with managed service providers as they provide trusted advice on the right technology, help in the deployment process and maintenance of the software.
And its not just IT that benefits from consolidation. When it comes to customer support, we found that on average, SMEs use 2 different platforms/solutions to manage all customer communication, whether it’s via phone, SMS, social media or email. A consolidated tech stack can help offer more streamlined customer support which can improve the overall customer experience.
Lindsay Brown is the vice president and general manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, at GoTo.
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