Tech & Innovation

European SMBs nearer to full digitisation than large businesses

By Business & Finance
12 December 2013

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Europe are moving much faster than their peers in larger organisations in the race to complete key digital transformation initiatives, according to research commissioned by Ricoh Europe.

Almost two thirds of SMBs (64%) expect to digitise their remaining physical documents within the next three years, compared to less than half (46%) of large businesses. In addition 78% of SMB business leaders said that employees can work on documents from any work-supplied mobile device, compared to 69 per cent in large organisations.

735 business leaders and IT decision makers across Europe, including Ireland, were surveyed for this study by Coleman Parkes Research this year.

Digital transformation will enable the SMB to grow into the future with a more productive and agile working model where employee knowledge sharing is enhanced and they are more responsive to client needs.  However, the study also unveils an area of risk for SMBs – their employees are also more likely (62%) to use personal drives to store information compared to 55 per cent of large business, which is also a significant number. Such actions can deter the benefits of effective information sharing and even result in the loss of important business insights if employees leave the company and critical documents are not retrieved.

The presence of more iWorkers (‘intelligent workers’) in the future – reliable and skilled employees who have 24/7 access to all the necessary information to meet the needs of the business and its clients – is one measure that could help to prevent such impacts. The study shows that by 2018, 30% of SMB leaders expect the majority of their employees to align with the iWorker definition. However, there is a long way to go before more collaborative and responsive working environments are established.

Like their peers in larger organisations, the challenge is to establish a new type of information sharing culture. More than half of SMB leaders (55%) and large business leaders (53%) confess that their organisation is not a sharing company.

David Mills, chief operating officer, Ricoh Europe, says: “The forward-thinking SMBs have a fantastic opportunity ahead of them. By further digitising their business critical documents and optimising their processes, they will be able to access information quickly, whenever they need it. Importantly, by doing so, they will increase productivity as they manage their knowledge more effectively. They will also be more agile in the changing workplace, more responsive to customer needs and able to enhance employee knowledge sharing. Then, when these foundations are set, they will be able to build an information sharing culture that will attract and retain more iWorkers to successfully drive the business in the future.”