Are SMEs Ready for the Digital Workplace?
The evolution of the digital workplace has transformed the world of work in the 21st century. Extranets, the use of cloud services and other IT innovations means we are able to work more flexibly than ever before and are no longer reliant on being in the office to do our jobs.
The benefits for businesses which choose to integrate digital and mobile technologies are massive. Not only do they benefit from high quality IT systems, but they are also able to offer flexible and work-at-home options to staff, which could prove vital when looking to retain high-performing talent.
No longer a ‘nice-to-have’
One of the strongest indicators that the digital workplace is moving away from being a ‘nice-to-have’ to a business norm is new research suggesting that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the globe are now keen to join the revolution.
According to the study by Aruba, 66% of SME senior managers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia regard developing a digital workplace environment in their organisations as a strategic priority, with a quarter of those polled also revealing plans to invest in the concept in the next 12 months.
The reason why? To attempt to boost their productivity and efficiency, as well as to improve the sharing of data and increase collaborative processes.
Furthermore, the research found that 30% of small businesses are currently investing in technology to create mobile working opportunities, with a further 20% planning to take such steps in the near future.
In terms of the sectors most interested in taking the leap into the digital workplace, 80% of those involved in both healthcare and finance regarded such steps as being a vital step forward for their organisations.
Jeremy Lye, European Marketing Manager at financial asset management company Schroders UK, said there had been a host of benefits to working more digitally for this organisation.
He explained: “The more advanced digital technology and analytics we have invested in has increased our understanding of clients’ purchasing behaviours. It’s also very important to have flexibility to work from anywhere.”
However, while the appetite for the digital workplace is clearly present among SMEs, there are concerns which may be holding some back from further considering the issue. Perhaps surprisingly, half of the SME managers polled said they had no plans to introduce such IT innovations.
Why? Well, according to the study, half of those polled said that data security was the primary concern which was holding them back at present. This is not wholly surprising as, while the digital workplace offers huge benefits, a failure to ensure robust IT security systems are in place could have major consequences for many organisations.
It is unsurprising to see security issues at the forefront of many businesses’ minds, particularly with the use of online services and remote working growing so rapidly.
In fact, companies seem more concerned about security than ever before. Another recent study by ComRes revealed that 71% of directors even believe that organisations without proper cyber security measures in place should be penalised in some form. In the same study, half of those polled added that they viewed cyber threats as a greater risk to their business than issues including market volatility.
With this type of sentiment growing in the business world, it is understandable why many of the SME managers polled in the Aruba survey are keen to tread carefully and ensure their IT security systems are up to scratch before fully embracing the digital workplace model.
Advice is key
However, for those who are ready to implement the digital workplace, the key issue is how to go about it. According to the survey, there is only one option above all else: expert advice.
It revealed that, rather than using analyst findings, web searches and other options, the primary strategy to adopting such a set-up would be to get expert support. Indeed, 85% of those polled said they will seek advice from a local IT partner to start moving on the issue.
A matter of time
All of this indicates that it may well just be a matter of time until smaller businesses choose to embrace the digital workplace as an everyday part of their activities. There may be boundaries to overcome in some cases, but it is clear that the appetite to introduce such systems is very strong.
While such a move will undoubtedly help SMEs to boost their productivity, perhaps another important aspect is that such systems should allow them to better compete with larger competitors – both in terms of their handling of projects, but also in their efforts to attract high quality talent to their organisations.
There are clear benefits that, given time, small businesses may not be able to afford to ignore.
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