Technology and Smes Essay

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The connected future for SMEs
What Europe’s small businesses think about technology

Power to you

The connected future for SMEs

Introduction 3
SMEs are ready for business


Technology supports business success


Mobility leads the way


The rise of new technologies


The future is connected



Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of the European Union’s economy and societies. They account for 98.8% of all businesses, employ more than two-thirds of all workers and contribute more than half of the region’s gross value added (GVA).
These businesses are hugely important as employers, contributors to innovation, and drivers of local and regional growth. Yet research and media coverage, both in studies of economic impact and use of technology, tends to focus on large enterprises.
This report sets out to redress that balance, examining how SMEs are emerging from years of austerity and economic uncertainty. What do they think about the future? What does technology mean for them and their operations? How are they making sure that they’re ready to seize the opportunities they face?
They’re big questions, and the answers will be of vital importance for policy-makers, analysts and
SMEs themselves.

About this research
Vodafone’s Insights team commissioned Circle Research to undertake quantitative and qualitative research into SMEs across key European markets in Spring 2013. We looked at areas such as business confidence, business priorities, and technology adoption.
They held more than 1,700 online and a number of in-depth telephone interviews with senior decision-makers involved in the use of technology in their business, representing a spread of:

Countries: Germany, the UK, Spain, the Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic and Italy.

Vertical sectors: B2B and B2C SMEs, from retail to financial services and manufacturing.

Sizes: from sole traders to large SMEs.

How do we define SMEs?
Where do you draw the line between big business and small? For the
EU, and for the purposes of this report, SMEs are categorised as: sole traders and micro SMEs (1–9 workers) small SMEs (10–49 employees) medium/large SMEs (50–249 staff).

67% of employees in the European
Union work for a SME.

2.71m businesses were registered in the
UK in March 2013, an increase of
18,000 on the previous year.

The connected future for SMEs

SMEs are ready for business
It’s been a tough few years for many EU economies.
Sectors have contracted, spending has declined, unemployment increased. SMEs have been hit hard, yet
80% of them are confident about the future.

50% of SMEs say their business is performing slightly better or much better than two years ago.

Confidence is on the up
We asked our respondents how well their business was performing compared to two years ago, and
— more importantly — how “confident” they feel about the next 1–2 years (see Figure 1).

20% were not very confident, or not at all confident. For them, success will simply mean staying afloat. Their budgets are tight and they’re trying to do more with less.



very confident not very confident 57% were quite confident. For them, success means growth and profit. They’re starting to invest, allocating bigger budgets to new projects.

23% were very confident. Morale is high; they’re growing, looking around for new opportunities and new enablers to help them grow even faster.

Variation by business


quite confident Figure 1: SME confidence

At a more detailed level, there’s quite a bit of variety across the spectrum of respondents in terms of how well their businesses are performing and how confident they feel about the future.

By business size

91% of medium/large SMEs are confident about the future, compared to just 63% of sole traders. Confidence was