Sydney, 31 August 2017 – OKI Data Australia, a global manufacturer of business printers and multifunction devices, has released its 2017 OKI SME Business Efficiency Survey.
Responses were collected using an online survey emailed to 3000 SMEs across all Australian states. Each recipient was asked to complete a detailed online form and provide responses on a range of topics including business efficiency strategies and any impediments being experienced.
The survey found 82% of Australian SMEs believe they are operating cost effectively. This is an increase on last year when 76% of businesses reported being in a similar position.
This rise is supported by the fact that 51% of those surveyed said they had implemented cost efficiency initiatives during the past 12 months. However, this number is down compared with last year when 65% reported undertaking such initiatives. A further 21% of SMEs indicated plans to implement cost efficiency initiatives during the coming 12 months, which compares with 13% in last year's survey.
"This year's results demonstrate that strong efficiency improvements continue to be made by Australian SMEs," said Antonio Leone, Marketing Manager ANZ, OKI Data Australia. "However, the research also shows there are still significant opportunities for more to be done. It's clear that one of the biggest limiting factors is a lack of available funds for investment."
According to the survey, almost two thirds (59%) of Australian SMEs spend less that $5000 a year on efficiency initiatives while 85% spend less than $15,000.
"These spending levels mean that, while general IT projects such as hardware, internet connections and printers are affordable, higher-end projects are out of reach. Topics such as Big Data and automation are often discussed, however financing initiatives in these areas is simply unrealistic for most SMEs. For example, our research found just 18% have invested in automation projects."
The research found that, during the past year, 74% of SMEs made investments in general 'efficient' IT technology. This included projects that boosted business efficiency such as development of websites, apps and ecommerce capabilities (nominated by 29% of respondents), and digital marketing and online advertising (28%).
Asked to consider the factors limiting them from becoming more efficient, 26% of SMEs nominated a lack of finance needed to make up-front investments. This was followed by a lack of skilled staff (24%) and technology challenges such as slow internet connections and legacy equipment that was preventing them from taking advantage of cloud-based services (24%).
These results differ only slightly from those of last year when 30% of respondents nominated a lack of finance and 25% a lack of skilled staff as their key roadblocks to improved efficiency. Over the same period, technology challenges as an inhibitor were nominated by 24% - a sharp increase from 13% a year earlier.
When it comes to taking advantage of any new business efficiencies that are achieved, more than a third (35%) of survey respondents confirmed they are savings their efficiency savings rather than re-investing the money into other areas. At the same time, 23% said they are investing the savings into finding further efficiencies while 22% are re-investing to develop additional products and services.
Compared with the 2016 research, the number of SMEs that believe finding new ways to implement technology is a key way to boost competitive advantage has declined. Of those surveyed, 92% felt this was the case in 2016, however this has now dropped to 74%.
"The 2017 survey confirms that, while there continues to be a lot of discussion around the benefits of running lean and efficient operations, SMEs are still on the hunt for fresh opportunities," said Leone. "Unfortunately, a lack of funding is limiting the extent to which many can take advantage of powerful strategies such as automation."
"I'm looking forward to comparing this year's results with future surveys to see whether this situation can be overcome and Australian SMEs continue on their journey of efficiency improvement."