Western Cape’s small and medium business (SMB) sector is increasingly looking to use technology and communications services to slash costs, manage mobile and remote workforces and streamline operations as it grapples with the economic effects of Covid-19.
Gareth Brenchley, Managing Director at managed business services company Itec Cape Town, said IT departments were increasingly being asked to prioritise efficiency and cost savings across the entire business, not just IT, as many SMBs struggled to adjust to a ‘next normal’.
Recent research by information and insights company TransUnion showed that nearly eight out of every 10 South African small businesses (78%) had seen a significant decrease in their business revenues since the start of the pandemic. At the time, only 9% of SMBs were operating as normal, and less than 1% of businesses were thriving.
“Many companies that we’re speaking to right now have over-capitalised on IT infrastructure in the past, and are looking for ways to access simpler, cheaper technology that cuts their costs and gives them peace of mind. Or they’re simply trying to manage mobile workforces in a time of remote working, which has been a real headache for many businesses, while positioning themselves to be more resilient and agile going forward,” said Brenchley.
As a result, many companies are being attracted to so-called managed business service offerings, which provide a fully-customisable menu of utility-based offerings that can be consumed on a per-seat, per-month model, depending on usage. “Basically, companies still have all the IT services, security, communications services and printing services they need – without the investment in the technology,” said Brenchley.
With many SMBs focusing their efforts on boosting cash flow and attracting new customers, the TransUnion research showed that businesses operating normally were invariably more ‘digitally forward’: they were twice as likely to invest in research and development, and three times more likely to invest in technology, like business IT infrastructure, work-from-home technology and marketing.
Interestingly enough, print management remains a significant component of many SMB’s IT spend. Many companies still spend millions of rands a year on print, and a ‘print as a service’ model gives them key insights into their printing environments, with a better ability to track activity, reduce unnecessary volumes, manage costs and secure their network printers.
“Managed business services are the ideal way for many SMBs to access technology at this time. Apart from lower costs, and having maintenance done by the provider, companies always have access to the latest technologies, and can bring new business services online quickly. More importantly, companies are able to respond faster to market developments, as they have constant availability to data and other resources,” said Brenchley.