The pandemic has pushed small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to operate in a stay-at-home environment, which fast tracked the adoption of online tools and forced companies into quick digital transformation.
This was among the findings of a recent study by GetApp, surveying 600 SMEs in South Africa about their experience using digital tools during the lockdown in 2020.
The study revealed that 48% of businesses in South Africa purchased software that enabled them to collaborate and communicate online. Furthermore, 40% of businesses invested in e-commerce software and 58% in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to make their systems hacker-proof. Website software and endpoint protection software were added by 37% of business owners, while 38% bought project management software to improve their operational efficiency.
Despite the digitalising of workflows and the benefits that it brings, the study reports that local businesses are now more vulnerable to cybercrime as they’ve become increasingly reliant on online tools. In light of the heightened security risk that comes with remote working, businesses should deploy cybersecurity solutions that better protect their technology, data and other digital infrastructure.
In general, business owners are very happy with the software solution they’ve implemented during the pandemic with 46% of respondents saying the tools in use have helped them run their business more efficiently. According to the GetApp study, newly purchased software allowed 49% of businesses to operate remotely, improved engagement for 46% of businesses, and increased productivity for 45% of businesses.
Eager to be more competitive, respondents have shown a real appetite for digitisation investments this year in the areas of sales and promotions (73%), production/service delivery (63%) and collaboration and communication (45%). Other areas of digital investments considered by SMEs over the next year include logistics and supply chain support (44%), data mining and analytics (37%), backend administration(33%) and other areas of business(0.77%).
Additionally, business leaders have said they are willing to embrace Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as part of their digital transformation strategy. They understand that these immersive technologies are becoming increasingly important in keeping employees connected at a safe distance.
“There’s a great number of VR companies betting that virtual reality office environments, remote collaboration, and working from home in VR are going to be the future of work,” the study concludes.
The accelerating speed of digital means that the time is right for SMEs to upgrade to a connectivity solution that can support the next generation of technology. Fortunately, the internet connectivity landscape is keeping pace with the digital revolution, offering businesses best-of-breed wireless and fibre internet for enhanced network performance.