Digital gap between large and smaller companies, according to SAP Technobarometer
A study by Trends/Tendances, commissioned by SAP, of 1,092 Belgian companies shows that SMEs lag behind large companies when it comes to the implementation of digital projects. This is not really surprising: 87% of large companies (+500 employees) have ongoing digital projects, while 77% of SMEs say they are in the initial stage.
Below are the main figures, our interpretation, and insights for taking the next step.
A year and a half ago, the figures for large companies were about the same as those of SMEs today. SMEs realize that sooner or later something will have to change, in response to the digital innovation of competitors or newcomers, but they don't see an urgent need for it yet, or the danger in failing to act.
Efficiency gains and better service come first
Whereas in 2016 most projects were concerned with the cloud, mobile and ERP, today new technologies emerging, such as business intelligence, machine learning and robotics.
Cloud computing projects doubled and e-commerce became the number one application in 2017, the aim being to work more efficiently and serve customers better.
Obstacles: not the technology
The main obstacles for SMEs are lack of a digital strategy (58%), followed by lack of knowledge (50%) and the right employees (49%). Budget is not in the top 3. Also, most of the teething troubles of the technologies concerned have disappeared.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees say that lack of knowledge (63%) constitutes the main obstacle. 47% of them also say they don't know where and how to begin.
Below are a few approaches for renewing the role of internal IT.
Most popular projects
- Cloud computing: 55%
- E-commerce: 47%
- Digitale skills of employees: 42%
- Data collection via social media: 37%
- Business intelligence: 36%
In 2016, three-quarters of the IT budget still went to keeping the systems running (source). Unfortunately, this year we didn't obtain any figures for budget expenses.
We cannot infer from this that there was a general, revolutionary increase in the IT budget over the past year. This doesn’t square with the claim that budget is not considered such a problem. But you can only spend a euro once, right?
How do you overcome the obstacles?
Change begins with awareness. If you are aware that IT is a means for working more efficiently, smarter, and in a different way, things will be easier. IT is a bit like electricity.
80 years ago, companies had Chief Electricity Officers. Before a proper network existed, you had to produce it yourself. Today, we have IT managers. Do you have one, or are you one? Congratulations! Smarter working is important to you.
A new role for IT
Of course, it's not about the function of IT, but rather what you do with IT. Today, companies still manage their energy consumption and the related risks. IT will also evolve towards this. In any case, we are convinced that:
- IT is too often considered as operational (as cost).
- IT operations can be much more efficient than is currently the case in many companies.
- Internal IT specialists (who know the company well!) should collaborate much more closely with the business to achieve results together.
- The role of internal IT specialists will therefore shift from a technical to an advisory and strategic/tactical management role (also because IT specialists are becoming scarce).
This is nothing new, but rather an evolution. But we see that companies without a well-built internal IT department have difficulty filling this new role completely.