SMEs tuned into tech potential, finds survey

29 Jun 2006

More small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland see a strategic business value from using technology, the research firm iReach has claimed.

In a recent survey, the firm found that 57pc of respondents cited improved support to business projects as a key issue this year. “The concept of the ‘business value’ from IT infrastructure and performance is not a new one and SMEs more than any others see the value in ensuring each IT investment is a strategic one and simply not just ‘technology for technology’s sake’,” the firm said.

According to iReach, other key IT priorities for the year among SMEs include introducing new hardware and software into the organisation while developing a more needs-focused IT strategy. Almost two thirds of respondents reported that investment in new equipment is a priority for 2006. Areas such as risk management and managed services don’t appear to be as popular as SMEs showed lower interest and take-up.

Technology suppliers need to play a greater role in educating SME users about the value of risk-management policy in an ICT context as well as illustrating the usefulness of services such as network management in a small business environment, iReach said.

Telecoms priorities for SMEs concentrate on cost-specific issues such as the need to reduce overall telecoms spend and in particular fixed-line and data spend, the survey found. Almost three quarters of SMEs (72pc) agreed that this was their number one telecoms priority. “An increasingly competitive market is informing smaller firms of the possibilities in streamlining their telecoms infrastructure,” said iReach, citing for example heavy activity amongst fixed-wireless access providers as giving SMEs as an alternative option for broadband.

Nine out of 10 SMEs polled said they were satisfied with their current broadband/telecom data provider, which iReach said showed that customers are unlikely to change once their key needs are being serviced.

In separate research, iReach had found that users placed service level above cost savings when evaluating their broadband requirements. However, the firm suggested that the remaining 10pc of SMEs not satisfied with their current service “represent a significant market that may be up for grabs”.

A similar trend is evident from the mobile services market, with 12pc of businesses looking to change their mobile telecom provider, according to the research. “Given the high rates and usage in the corporate mobile telecom sector, this represents substantial ‘floating’ section of the total corporate market,” said iReach, which has estimated the overall corporate mobile services market as being worth €500m this year. The firm suggested that 3’s establishment in the market is likely to increase competition in this sector.

By Gordon Smith