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By Colin Timmis, SA Head of Accounting, Xero

Adopting the right technology is crucial to any organisation, no matter what size it is. Many small businesses are eager to adopt new technologies in order to grow, and generally be more productive. However, the pace at which software and apps are being developed can make the process of knowing what’s right for your business seem quite overwhelming for many business owners.

Recent research by Xero and World Wide Worx found that 45% of South Africa’s small businesses know that they could be doing more with regards to technology adoption and 52% say they are “only just keeping up”. A further 8% said that they wanted to improve. These responses indicate that small businesses are aware of the benefits that technology could bring but aren’t enjoying them yet.

These businesses are missing out on the opportunity to be more competitive and more efficient. They could save a huge amount of time and energy currently wasted using archaic systems and processes. Instead, they’ll be able to focus on more important growth-driven aspects of the business. This starts with totally rethinking the way they currently work to reap the rewards that technology could bring.

Out with the old tools and in with the new

An overwhelming majority of small businesses still rely on outdated tools. Nearly all (83%) use Excel spreadsheets and work with printed invoices (73%) and over half (56%) still use flash drives to transfer documents. This isn’t inherently wrong but it’s definitely not the best way to work. If you’re bogged down by time-consuming, inefficient processes, you won’t have the energy to focus on activities with longer term benefits, including customer service and marketing.

Once you start using cloud technology, the inefficiencies become even more apparent. Storing company data in the cloud expels the need for external storage drives. You can share documents with each other in a secure and efficient way. It also allows anyone to have access wherever they are, encouraging flexible working – which can be key to making great future hires.

Nearly two thirds (58%) of respondents said that cloud technology featured in their business plans for 2018. This leaves 42% of small businesses who are not considering using the cloud at all, which is worrying when thinking about their growth ambitions.

Transitioning to new technology sounds worse in theory than it is in practice – there are some really easy first steps you can take to propel your business into the future, using the tools and software you’ve already invested in.

Keeping up with the times

Nearly three quarters (73%) of South African small businesses use laptops, and over half (57%) are smartphone users. Getting the right hardware is the biggest investment, so it’s helpful that most have already done this. But these devices can be used for so much more than just drafting content and storing files.

You’re not making the best use of your laptop if you only ever use it in the office. You’re not getting real value out of your internet connection if you’re not using apps and cloud technology. Tools like Slack have the ability to change the way you communicate with colleagues, reducing the need for emails and phone calls. Instead, you have instant chat that enables you to communicate in real time with your colleagues, wherever they are.

Cloud software allows everyone involved in the business – employees and contractors alike – to access real-time data anywhere. The quicker information is shared, the quicker problems can be solved.

If you’re prepared to join the digital revolution, you can be sure that your business’ productivity will increase, and you’ll likely have happier staff too, as they can spend less time on the admin they hate. Save time on arduous processes and spend it on being strategic instead – if you let it, technology can do all the hard work for you.

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