The State and Fate of Small and Medium Businesses

Liam O'Sullivan, September 8, 2021

Small and medium sized businesses have been among the hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic. From having to temporarily close their doors to a decrease in customer demand, and with fewer financial resources available, many have struggled to survive and have closed permanently. 

The recent Xerox State and Fate of Small and Medium Businesses survey, conducted by Morning Consult, polled 1,200 business decision makers. Participants of the survey are from companies with 25 to 1,000 employees in the UK, Canada and the US and the survey was designed to help Xerox gain a clearer view of how SMBs have weathered the storm and their outlook for the future. 

The impact of the pandemic on SMBs

Across industries and institutions large and small, there is consensus that the world as it once was isn’t returning – at least, not any time soon. SMBs are a fundamental part of the global economy, in the UK they created three times the jobs of their larger counterparts in a five-year period. 

71% of SMB leaders surveyed agreed that their businesses had fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic, but encouragingly 64% anticipate they will emerge from the pandemic stronger. Having the right technology in place was a key factor for helping SMBs respond to the rapid changes required of them as a result of COVID-19. 

Although 68% credited their technology and equipment for helping them weather the pandemic, nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated they expedited digital transformation plans in response to COVID-19. 

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of these technologies to power up a more flexible, ‘work from anywhere’ workforce. The adoption of cloud-based servers, collaboration tools, communication solutions and IT services will continue to be a priority for many SMBs.

A growing reliance on technology

SMBs understand technology is crucial to keeping their businesses going, 81% say they’re more reliant on innovation than ever before. While 85% found communications and collaboration technologies, remote IT support and security software and hardware were now indispensable. Compared to last year, 75 percent have increased their technology budgets by an average of 34 percent

Automation and workflow technologies that digitise and accelerate slow manual processes are also at the forefront of SMBs digital transformation plans.  With many agreeing that automation can help them push the right information to the right applications and people for action to help their businesses run efficiently and seamlessly. 

In fact, 80% saw automating tasks and processes as important to their survival, with 82 percent emphasising the same when it came to digitising paperwork. Two-thirds plan to upgrade their automation tools and three out of four observed an increased reliance on workflow solutions over their pre-pandemic setups. 65% of the SMB leaders surveyed have already upgraded their workflow solutions.

Security remains a concern 

Aside from overcoming the business disruption caused by the pandemic, the rise in cyber security issues throughout the pandemic has been a concern for many SMBs. The shift to remote working presented an opportunity for unscrupulous actors to target businesses of all shapes and sizes. 

As the majority of people worked from home, on their own devices and without the layers of protection they have in the office, SMBs became more vulnerable to attack. According to Deloitte, video conference breaches impacted 500K people with the theft of personal data from February to May 2020. In August of last year, the FBI reported a 400 percent increase in cyberattacks since the onset of the pandemic.

This growing risk combined with the increased sophistication of attacks meant that the majority of survey respondents, 90 percent, said the security of their information was a business imperative. With three quarters reporting that they were likely to upgrade their current security and software in 2021. 

The shift to remote working

Suddenly having entire workforces across almost every sector working remotely at home highlighted a big shortfall in remote IT support. 65% of SMB leaders flagged this as a substantial pain point. 

Understanding that employees are less productive and more exposed to threats without robust remote support, 74% of those surveyed reported that they intend to upgrade their remote IT support solutions.

Looking to the future

Undeniably, the rate at which SMBs adapted and responded to the demands of the pandemic was outstanding. Faced with difficult circumstances and dynamic unknowns, they swiftly pivoted to embrace digital transformation technologies to serve distributed workforces and address emerging customer needs.

Digital transformation was already on the horizon for many, but the pandemic has accelerated these plans and made them more business imperative rather than a nice to have. The outlook for the future among SMBs is optimistic, agile and realistic and they recognise that having the right technology and processes in place can help them be more robust. 

How ITEC can help

As a Xerox Business Solutions Company, we can help SMBs implement their digital transformation plans to fill gaps in key areas including collaboration, security, and automation. Get in touch to discuss your requirements and to see how we can help.

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