European SMBs nearer to full digitisation than large businesses

The British Chamber of Commerce said yesterday that the UK economy will surpass its 2008 pre-recession peak by the second half of 2014. Putting themselves in place for this recovery, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Europe are increasingly investing in technology and digital transformation initiatives for their business processes, according to research commissioned by global technology company Ricoh.

Almost two thirds of SMBs (64%) expect to complete a digital transformation of their remaining physical documents within the next three years, while 46% of large organisations are planning the same. In addition, 78% of SMB business leaders said that employees can work on documents from any work-supplied mobile device, compared to 69% in large organisations.

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SMBs, as a result, are in a prime position to capitalise on the economic recovery and address the changing needs of the workforce. Digital transformation will enable such SMBs to grow into the future with a more productive working model where employee knowledge sharing is enhanced and they are more responsive to client needs. 

Large organisations, similarly, have an opportunity to take advantage of digital transformation to become more agile and competitive in the marketplace, as business confidence continues to be re-established.

The study also unveils that SMB leaders believe their current inability to access documents and other important information systems from mobile devices are the top two areas that are holding them back, when it comes to effectively sharing information. This further signifies a need for seamless digitised processes that employees can embrace both inside and outside the organisation to support client needs and business objects.

It was also found that 62% of SMB employees are likely to use personal drives to store information compared to 55% of large businesses. Such actions can deter the benefits of effective information sharing and even result in the loss of important business insights if employees leave the company and critical documents are not retrieved.

These additional insights suggest that many business critical processes and document flows are still to be reviewed and optimised to support the business and employee needs into the future.

In order to further digitise effectively, SMBs must ensure they are reviewing their existing technology and that their processes or ways of working are optimised so they get the best from it.

In fact, all business leaders ranked optimising business critical document processes (reviewing the way we work in core business interactions) as the number one technology-led activity to have the biggest positive impact on business growth.

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However, they must also overcome the cultural obstacles to managing information. Like their peers in larger organisations, the challenge is to establish a new type of information sharing culture. More than half of SMB leaders (55%) and large business leaders confess that their organisation is not a sharing company.

'The forward-thinking SMBs have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them,' said Phil Keoghan, CEO of Ricoh UK.  'By further digitising their business critical documents and optimising their processes, they will be able to access information quickly, whenever they need it.  Importantly, by doing so, they will increase productivity as they manage their knowledge more effectively.

'They will also be more agile in the changing workplace, more responsive to customer needs and able to enhance employee knowledge sharing. Then, when these foundations are set, they will be able to build an information sharing culture that will attract and retain more iWorkers to successfully drive the business in the future'


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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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