Small and midsized businesses (SMBs) intend to expand their use of technology to improve customer interactions, mobility options, and operational efficiencies, according to a new study released by CompTIA, the nonprofit trade association for the information technology industry.
Seventy-one percent of the SMBs surveyed said they expect to increase their technology spending during the next 12 months, according to CompTIA's Third Annual Small and Medium Business Technology Adoptions Trends study. A full third of the companies surveyed expect to increase their IT budgets by 10 percent or more.
"Technology is more accessible, more affordable, and more available to SMBs than ever before," said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA,in the report. "SMBs may not have an abundance of capital to invest, so they have to make every dollar count. But the majority is willing to spend money on new technologies, especially solutions that give them capabilities on par with a larger enterprise. Technology plays an integral role in the life of a small business."
Among the factors driving SMB technology buying decisions during the next 12 months are desires for better network efficiencies and robustness; improved connections with customers online and in mobile environments; enhanced resource management and tracking; and more business analytics.>
"While cloud computing and mobility show the highest planned adoption rate, business intelligence is the emerging technology with the highest current adoption rate," the report states. "It makes sense that many small and medium businesses would apply some sort of data analysis to understand their market better. Business analytics also appears on the list of items SMBs want to address immediately, and with analysis getting more sophisticated and available data growing exponentially, this is likely to be a key area for smaller firms in years to come."
Another key area of interest for SMBs is social media, with 35 percent of survey respondents already engaging in some social media activity and another 30 percent planning to start in the next 12 months. Forty-four percent of firms surveyed already have staff whose primary job is social media.
Among the uses of social media, communicating special offers with customers topped the list, at 68 percent, followed by building brand awareness (62 percent), responding to customer questions (57 percent), responding to customer complaints (52 percent), soliciting customer input (34 percent), and understanding market dynamics (24 percent).
"Positive experience correlates well with the number of companies who have taken the time to establish a social media strategy," the report says, noting that improved communication with customers is the strongest value proposition social media can offer.
The research also found that nearly one-third of SMBs have adopted cloud computing technology, with medium-sized businesses (42 percent) showing the highest utilization. Another 35 percent of all SMBs plan to use the cloud in some form in the next year. Storage and backup solutions are the most heavily used cloud applications with 71 percent of SMBs using the cloud in this way. Email (62 percent), document management (59 percent), collaboration (56 percent), and customer relationship management (53 percent) are other popular options.
CompTIA's Third Annual Small and Medium Business Technology Adoptions Trends study is based on a May 2011 online survey of 602 IT and business professionals in small and midsized businesses in the United States.