A survey into SME attitudes to risk has identified which of 24 'risk scenarios' (that's things that could go wrong, to you and me) are most likely to keep business owners awake at night.
The research, commissioned by McAfee, revealed UK SMEs view their technology systems and the integrity of their data as the biggest areas of risk.
In contrast, things that might traditionally have been perceived as significant risks - like big marketing campaigns or competitor initiatives - are seen as being much less likely to have a detrimental impact on business performance.
This graph shows the ten highest risks selected by businesses in the UK:
Although it's perhaps depressing that new technology is responsible for so many worries in business, this survey also suggests a greater awareness of the risks, which bodes well for long-term improvements.
What's more, most companies can reduce most of these risks by taking some fairly simple steps.
To start with, it's a good idea to create some sort of security plan. It doesn't have to be an enormous document, but writing even a short plan will force you to think about what the key risks are.
Once you've done that, make sure you've covered these basics:
Tick-tock: time is precious in business. (Image: Flickr user blue2likeyou.)
Are communication and administration tasks diverting resources in your business that could be better used for other things?
Many of the 3,500 small companies surveyed cited specific problems with communications and admin. They'll probably be familiar to your company too:
Even when faced with these issues, many workers are still clinging to traditional methods of communication, relying on the phone, email and meetings.
However, some businesses are seeking alternative ways to communicate, with 39% increasing their use of online collaboration tools. The study found that these are more commonly used by organisations which saw an increase in profits or turnover in 2012.
This could suggest that more forward-thinking, tech-savvy small businesses are using collaborative technology to gain a competitive advantage.
Do you use any great collaboration tools in your business? Or is it better to pick up the phone and have a chat? Leave a comment to let us know.
Against the backdrop of a challenging economic climate and unpredicted social and political upheavals, the need for agility and flexibility in business is paramount. Accompanying this turbulent environment is a tidal wave of technology change. It’s having an impact on every aspect of businesses operations, from the boardroom to the shop floor.
These trends are fuelling an unprecedented change to the way businesses and employees operate. And many organisations aren’t ready to adapt to the future workplace.
Recent Ricoh research – conducted via the Economist Intelligence Unit – demonstrates how power is shifting away from the traditional management hierarchy. This research found that 63% of business leaders are predicting that business decision-making will shift towards individual employees, as businesses move towards a decentralised structure by 2020.
Although lacking the financial resources of bigger companies, smaller businesses could find themselves at an advantage in this scenario. Their size and nature means they’re more likely to have a cohesive, collaborative management structure where the best ideas can rise to the top and be implemented into everyday operations.
Likewise, SMEs often have a more flexible approach to technology adoption. Having a smaller workforce makes IT innovation more commonplace. For instance, it’s easier to take an individual approach to IT provision, giving each member of staff access to the technology they’re most comfortable with.
It is, however, difficult to shift decision-making to employees if they do not have access to the data and documents they need to take action. So if your business really wants to get ready for employee empowerment, you may need to rethink how your document processes work. The aim is to ensure important information is shared flexibly across your whole company.
The research also points towards a new, more collaborative approach to product and service development. Nearly 86% of business leaders agreed that project teams will typically include people from outside the organisation like customers, partners and communities.
This adds weight to the argument for shifting towards a connected business model where all these parties are linked and able to communicate effectively so they can develop the brightest ideas.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, there’s a great opportunity here for companies willing to implementing more collaborative technologies. The tidal wave of technology change will give birth to a new generation of business success stories, empowered by customers and partners alike.
Chas Moloney is a director at Ricoh UK.
Your data and IT infrastructure play a key role in the continued success of your business, regardless of the size of your company.
That’s underlined by a statistic I came across recently from the Department of Trade and Industry revealing that 70% of UK businesses that suffered a catastrophic data loss were closed within 18 months.
At Dell, we’ve just published a report in conjunction with Intel which looks at the server and storage needs of small businesses in Europe. We commissioned the research because we wanted to learn more about the attitudes of smaller companies towards servers and storage.
The report reveals that two-thirds (66%) of European small businesses are heavily dependent on their IT and almost a third (32%) of these say it is critical to their business. And most businesses are miles off achieving a failure-free IT system with 93% of respondents indicating that they have experienced IT problems which inhibited their ability to continue doing business.
We asked about how often disruption occurs, too: 17% claim it happens at least once a week (that must cause some serious problems), but the better news is that 40% say it only happens rarely.
We also looked at small business’ attitudes towards new technologies such as cloud computing. Our findings suggest adoption rates are low, but it would be interesting to investigate how many companies use cloud services without even realising it.
According to our research, only 17% of small businesses said they had started using cloud computing and 28% said they had no intention of moving their infrastructure to the cloud. Security and privacy were the most commonly cited concerns, although performance and availability were also significant.
You might have seen our recent survey, in which 60% of respondents said they plan to invest in technology in 2012. Now a separate survey of 1,250 companies, run by the Epson Business Council, has found that 51% of British small businesses reckon IT is an integral part of their drive for business growth.
No surprises there, really. After all, technology plays a key role in almost every aspect of business.
However, when compared to their continental counterparts it actually looks like British businesses are lagging somewhat behind. In France and Germany, the same survey found 76% of businesses consider IT integral to growth. In Spain it was 73% and in Italy it was 68%.
Those differing attitudes were reflected in the adoption of technology too. The research showed that only 27% of British small businesses use smartphones and 38% use tablets.
Given the relative youth of tablet computers, it seems surprising that more businesses use those than use smartphones. But assuming that’s accurate, in France and Germany an even greater proportion of businesses said they use tablets. More than half, in fact.
Does that mean British businesses are getting left behind, or are they simple taking a more measured approach in adopting these new technologies?
There is one other possibility, of course. We’ve seen a growing trend of employees bringing IT to work, circumventing the IT department and hooking their own smartphones and tablets up to company systems. Could that account for some of the discrepancy?
Do these survey results match your own experiences? Leave a comment to let us know how you use tablets and smartphones.