Technology is a primary driver helping the nation's small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) to reach their goals, according to new research from CompTIA, the leading trade association for the global technology industry.
"Whether it's acquiring new customers, entering new marketing, launching new products, or streamlining operations and processes, technology is at the heart of these activities," said Carolyn April, senior director for industry analysis at CompTIA. "Many small businesses are on the path toward digitizing their environments, using cloud-based solutions and services, and increasingly diving into data analytics to meet customer demand."
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of SMBs indicate technology is a primary factor in pursuing their business objectives, according to the CompTIA report "Tech Buying Trends Among Small- and Medium-size Businesses."
Medium-sized organizations place the most weight on technology as a strategic tool, with 73 percent characterizing it as a primary factor in meeting overall objectives. But even among companies with fewer than 20 employees, 56 percent cite technology as a primary factor in achieving objectives.
But the road to digitization can be an uphill battle for even the tech-savviest of companies.
A 2016 CompTIA survey of the SMB market found that 23 percent of companies reported excelling in technology vision and strategy. That number dropped to 18 percent in the new latest survey. SMBs also report slight drops in proficiency around execution and ongoing management of technology.
"It's not that SMBs have gotten less tech-focused or capable, but the sheer number and types of solutions has grown in such size and complexity that many firms are taking two steps forward and one back as they navigate these new learning curves," April explained.
Tech Budgets, Purchases and Wish Lists
Spending on technology products and services generally ranges from less than $5,000 annually for the smallest of SMBs to $249,000 a year for mid-size firms. A sweet spot for the entire SMB ecosystem is somewhere between $10,000and $49,000 of spend per year. But nearly four in 10 respondents in the CompTIA study characterize their firm's allocation of budget to tech spending as too low.
When it comes to what they're buying, 36 percent of SMBs said that their purchases in the last two years have focused on core infrastructure: laptops, desktops, mobile phones, servers, and networking equipment. Thirty-one percent have made industry- or sector-specific purchases, such as billing applications for law practices or electronic medical records software for a doctor's office.
Asked what they would do with an unexpected windfall, 30 percent of SMBs said they'd invest in "cutting-edge" technology; 23 percent would upgrade staff computers and mobile phones; and 20 percent would upgrade web sites, e-commerce apps, and mobile apps.
When it comes to emerging technologies, 53 percent of SMBs say this broad category represents a positive opportunity to innovate, profit and improve productivity. A quarter of respondents say it's too early to tell what the impact will be on their business. Ten percent give a thumbs down to emerging tech, citing the high cost of entry for many of these solutions and the potential job-security perils inherent in automation.
CompTIA surveyed 650 small and medium business across the U.S.