Many SME’s dont consider ICT critical

Internet Research, SME Research

Small to medium businesses are increasingly satisfied with the availability of information and communications technology but still wrestle with the challenge of securing the skills and expertise necessary for sustained performance.This is among the key findings of SME Survey 2006, in which 6000 owners of South African small to medium businesses were polled on the factors which affect their enabling environment. Sponsored by Standard Bank and Oracle Corporation South Africa the Survey has, since 2003, provided key insights into this valuable business sector.

According to principal researcher Arthur Goldstuck, the introduction of more options for connectivity as well as increased competition in the telecommunications environment appears to be having a positive effect on the SME market. “Interestingly, respondents rating access to General IT infrastructure – which for the first time has been separated from Access to Internet Infrastructure – as important has declined from last year to this year with 71% of respondents rating it important [2005: 78%], 9% saying it is unimportant [2005: 7%] and 19% neutral [2005: 14%],” he says.
The reduction in the percentage of respondents rating IT infrastructure as important may indicate that as technology becomes a standard resource for doing business, it is not considered as an opportunity for competitive advantage.

The Internet is also not yet considered a ‘must have’ for many SME businesses; Goldstuck says 68% rated Access to Internet infrastructure as important, 9% unimportant while 21% were neutral.

Respondents were also asked how satisfied they were with their access to resources, hence providing a Satisfaction Index (SI) for access to the resources they regarded as most important,” he says. Access to General IT Infrastructure as well as Internet Infrastructure both returned an SI of 69, where 100 is fully satisfied.

Access to skills and staff remained one of the bigger bugbears for the SME; these categories returned SI figures of 56 and 60 respectively.

Andrew Krause, applications director at Oracle South Africa, notes that the SI indicates that while SMEs are able to access ICT resources fairly reliably, there is work to be done. “Given the dispersed nature of the SME environment, with businesses obviously located anywhere and everywhere in the country, the availability of effective channels to market which are able to reach these businesses is clearly of critical importance,” he says.

Meanwhile, Krause adds that the increasing competition in the telecommunications and Internet connectivity markets are playing into the hands of the SME. “Bandwidth, in particular, is a key resource for many applications. While it is somewhat surprising that some businesses do not yet see the Internet as having value for them, Oracle is of the view that with further development, more SMEs are likely to appreciate the value that automation [through business applications] and computerisation can bring to any business,” he says.

As such, Krause believes SME Survey 2006 has provided insight not only into the enabling environment for the SME, but also insight into the opportunity that this market represents for resellers capable of delivering solutions appropriate for their needs.

These and other findings will be discussed in more detail at the SME Survey 2006 seminars to be hosted in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town in October. Come and find out about the latest SME information from the largest survey ever conducted in SA, network with fellow entrepreneurs and listen to guest speakers Kobus Wiese, Robert Dennison, Dave Kirkby, Mr. Bikitsha and Johanna McDowell, as they share their business experiences.

* Distributed by Coolcumba Communications on behalf of SME Survey. Media Contact Details: Melissa Padia, Coolcumba Communications, (011) 467 2836

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