The report, The connected SMB: Embracing digital strategies to fuel growth, found that Australian small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) process an average of 168 invoices each month. With a Deloitte study estimating that e-invoicing could deliver savings of up to $20 per invoice, Australia’s SMBs could save up to $40,320 a year.
Three quarters of those who have transitioned say the biggest impact has been time and money saved, according to the report, while more than half said it improved the accuracy of record-keeping (56 per cent) and was more secure (53 per cent).
“Running an SMB comes with its challenges but switching to digital processes has been key to the survival of many businesses during the pandemic. It frees up time and money to focus on other priorities like developing new products and finding new customers,” said Sofiane Ainine, SMB segment lead, SAP Australia and New Zealand. “Now is the time for SMBs to review their adoption of technology. This will help them through the current crisis and set them up for future growth.”
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson said, “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology adoption in helping small businesses innovate – increasing efficiency and productivity, attracting new customers in different markets, improving customer and employee experiences. This helps them create more jobs.
“It’s encouraging that the research in this SAP report shows SMBs accelerating digital technology adoption. Technologies like e-invoicing improve process efficiency and, importantly, will see small businesses paid more quickly for the products and services they provide.”
The research suggests that the fear of switching to e-invoicing is bigger than the challenge of implementing it, with 88 per cent of SMBs that had made the jump saying it was easy, and almost one in five (18 per cent) making the transition without external support.
Some will still need help to get there, with integrating the process into computer systems (36 per cent) and understanding what software to use (31 per cent) perceived as the biggest challenges.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of SMBs are mostly digital in their invoicing and recordkeeping. Of this group, 26 per cent sought advice from their internal IT department, followed by an external IT company (24 per cent), their accountant (26 per cent), a consultant (22 per cent) or the government (18 per cent).
“SMB owners shouldn’t feel like they are alone on this journey. There are many sources of support ready to help them overcome hurdles and make the most of opportunities by sharing experiences and advising on the best approaches for their business,” Ms Ainine said. “It’s about taking it one step at a time, learning what works and implementing digital initiatives that align to their goals.”
The past 18 months has fast-tracked the transition to digital processes for many SMBs and increased their appetite for transformation. The research found most SMBs who use e-invoicing (75 per cent) are looking to digitise other business processes.
Payroll is the top focus (72 per cent), followed by forecasting (42 per cent), debt collection (38 per cent), customer experience (33 per cent), and talent management (28 per cent).
Over half (54 per cent) of SMBs say they will have digitised all account and account management processes within the next two years, with 44 per cent planning to do so within the next 12 months.
To help them get there, more than half (57 per cent) of business owners/managers agree that increased government support in the form of information, services, subsidies and grants would help their business continue to drive forward digital initiatives and change.