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Using technology to upgrade your small business

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Using technology to upgrade your small business
Colin Timmis, Head of Accounting, South Africa, Xero.

Technophobia is a phenomenon that can be exaggerated. There are very few people today who completely disavow all electronics and choose to live a life cut off from the digital world.

Instead, It usually manifests in more subtle ways: an aversion to smartphones, a reluctance to upgrade an old television, or, in the case of small businesses, a refusal to update certain systems and processes.

This is reflected in Xero’s recent research,: 45% of those surveyed suggest they could be doing more in terms of technology adoption, and 52% admit to ‘just keeping up’. Furthermore, some 83% still rely on Microsoft Excel, 73% employ printed invoices, and 56% store and transfer documents via USB sticks.

It all suggests a mildly technophobic tendency – but it can be overcome.

Sticking to what you know?

Fear of the unknown is understandable: it might seem easier to stick to what you know. And you might be true to a certain extent – there can be variable price points and an inevitable period of growing pains as people learn the system.

But no matter what the cost and effort is – it’s almost always well worth doing.

Upgrading your systems drives efficiency and productivity and lowers costs; ensuring that you get the most out of your internal resources. Manual data entry, invoice chasing, file transfers from flash drives: these are mundane, administrative concerns, and they distract businesses from the basic, essential work of pleasing their customers.
A reluctance to embrace cloud technology, for example, can deprive a business of scalability and mobility. With this in mind, it’s heartening that 58% of small businesses are including it in their plans for 2018.

That said, this means that 42% aren’t – and they may find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the future.

Use what you have

A mistake people make about technology is that they assume it’s just about the new. For many, it’s about doing old things in a new way. It’s easy to think of laptops as an old technology. Their core benefit – increased mobility – is hardly cutting-edge.

But with the aid of cloud technology, this mobility extends to anywhere with an internet connection. By replicating the office environment on a virtual desktop software, employees can perform essential business functions from a coffee shop, library, or the comfort of their home. And with this, there’s no reason why the quality of work slips.
These advantages aren’t lost on South Africa’s entrepreneurs: some 70% believe cloud tools will save time, 52% think it will save money, and 49% anticipate an increase in operational efficiency. Some 48% of respondents have saved more than ten hours already.

So what’s stopping more entrepreneurs from embracing this technology?

Chat apps can make complex colleague communication simple and straightforward. Cloud accounting tools can automate the process of issuing and chasing invoices – some even come with a handy ‘pay now’ button. There are many ways for a business to make the most of their time and money, and almost all involve technology.

Technology won’t be your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Every organisation is different, and what works for one company might not be the best approach for another one. You’ve also go to make sure that your people are on board! But businesses are rarely poorer for having the latest and best tools at their disposal – and are in fact often, much richer.

By Colin Timmis, SA Head of Accounting, Xero

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