It would be an understatement to say that small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) around Australia have had to face a tough couple of years. But there are signs that this is a remarkably resilient cohort of businesses.
A recent study revealed that 57% of SMBs in Australia and New Zealand have moved on from being in survival mode and are shifting to either growing or transforming their business. It also indicated that two-thirds of Australian SMBs are getting ready to bump up their IT spend in 2022.
"The majority of SMBs in ANZ are now optimistic about the future," said IDC ANZ senior market research and IT services senior market analyst Emily Lynch.
"Cloud, collaboration, and cybersecurity are key pillars of investment for ANZ SMBs. These organisations are seeing the gains of these investments in improving productivity, time to market, and leveraging new digital technologies. Notably, we see that SMBs are deriving increasing percentages of revenue via digital channels."
Amazon Web Services technology and customer solutions vice president Francessca Vasquez agreed, believing there will be an increased adoption of cloud and cybersecurity technologies by SMBs.
"SMBs if they're looking to move to the cloud, [they] also look for use cases that allow them to learn, build skills, and go faster. Those use cases can be anything from foundational usage where they want to be able to have a good security framework, they want to be able to leverage identity to things like backup and recovery, just to get started," she said.
"From there, we see many of our SMBs then move onto moving their data and other analytics-based applications onto the cloud. That's a very common pattern that we see."
Leading the tech projects for most of these SMBs, according to Vasquez, are often the founders themselves, if they are still involved in the business, or chief product officers, which is an "emerging role within SMB".
The nimble size of SMBs is advantageous for how fast new technologies can be adopted, Vasquez added -- particularly when they can work with partners in the local market to experiment fast and drive use.
"For the vast majority of our small to mid-sized business customers, they tend to be thinking about outcomes such as product adoption, user adoption, so their mindset tends to be a little bit different; that I think allows them to disproportionately move faster in their capabilities," Vasquez said.
Another motivation for SMBs to adopt new technology is being driven by government. During the recent federal Budget, the Australian government announced it was getting behind small businesses investing in more technology. It said it would introduce an incentive that would allow small businesses to deduct an additional 20% of cost incurred on business expenses and depreciating assets that support their digital adoption, such as portable payment devices, cybersecurity systems, and subscriptions to cloud-based services.
"Governments and public sector in general have a role to play. One of the biggest roles they can play besides the tax incentives is, I think, a lot of these great SMB customers also become great hubs to help with talent," Vasquez said.
"I do believe we think about the workforce of the future and there are some critical skills that are really needed over the next five to ten years…and I think that the governments can play a role in helping the SMBs to develop talent and provide pathways for talent."
LastPass JAPAC identity lead Lloyd Evans described the government's decision to introduce such incentives as a prudent approach.
"SMB for the most part is the engine room of the Australian economy. I think ways to help them mitigate cyber risk, allowing them to be more resilient, and to be able to offset that cost for digital cybersecurity services…I think is a good way to help both the Australian economy but also companies operating in an SMB environment," he said.