Going digital will boost SMEs' growth: Survey

The poll noted that most SMEs were aware of the benefits, with over 50 per cent saying they expected digital technology would help them save costs, reduce their reliance on manpower, and automate and standardise business processes.
The poll noted that most SMEs were aware of the benefits, with over 50 per cent saying they expected digital technology would help them save costs, reduce their reliance on manpower, and automate and standardise business processes.PHOTO: BT FILE

Most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) believe digital technology can benefit their business but many also say they face challenges in implementing it, a new survey shows.

It found that more than 80 per cent of respondents believe digital technology can help their firms grow. However, 41 per cent said they were unable to devote enough resources to this area, while 29 per cent felt the implementation of digital technology was too complicated.

The survey of 204 SMEs was conducted by United Overseas Bank before Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat delivered the government Budget on Monday, which included new programmes to help smaller firms embrace digitalisation.

The poll noted that most SMEs were aware of the benefits, with over 50 per cent saying they expected digital technology would help them save costs, reduce their reliance on manpower, and automate and standardise business processes.

To help them adopt digitalisation, 65 per cent said they would like to see financial incentives from the Government, while 50 per cent said they would like government training grants to help employees learn to use technology effectively.

The Budget went some way towards addressing these needs with the SMEs Go Digital Programme.

Mr Mervyn Koh, UOB's Singapore country head of business banking, said many SMEs may not realise that innovation does not necessarily mean a major overhaul.

"There needs to be a mindset change to see that innovation also occurs when businesses change the way they do things," he said.

"This includes looking at how they can simplify existing processes through cost-effective business solutions that are readily available in the market. To future-proof their business, SME owners must explore how they can invest in and integrate technology in their business today to ensure that they keep up with the pace of digital change."

Mr James Quan, founder of high-end stationery firm Bynd Artisan, said the firm used to rely on brick-and-mortar stores, but is now focusing on building a strong e-commerce platform. It recently began using Xero, a digital accounting solution offered by UOB, to sync transactions made from its bank accounts.

He said: "This allows us to gather real-time information and also auto-reconcile our accounts with the bank, which helps us to greatly improve our productivity and enables us to focus on other core functions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Going digital will boost SMEs' growth: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe