The Business Lending Blog

The Case For Better Computer-based Systems in Irish SMEs

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Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of freeing up time spent on administrative tasks to concentrate more fully on the ‘brass tacks’ of their business?

Running a business with finite resources, whilst simultaneously navigating the administrative burden associated with government legislation, can be a minefield for the busy, self-employed sole trader or the office manager at an Irish SME.

‘Currently about 80% of our calls are around recruitment, contracts of employment, leave entitlement and performance management,’ explained Patricia Callan, director of the Dublin-based Small Firms Association. ‘When somebody takes the decision to hire their very first employee, they need to become familiar with human resources and employment law overnight’.

Add to this the day-to-day activities such as payroll, record keeping, financial planning, and billing, and it’s easy to see how a business can quickly become strained and its employees overwhelmed.

Many Irish SMEs don’t have the resources for a dedicated HR function, the onus often falls on office administrators. Generally, small companies only have a handful of staff to assume the job of administering the business, and their responsibilities tend to be very broad. 

Work smarter, not harder: the case for software solutions

The good news is that these days most business processes can be easily automated, digitised and optimised. The right software will save both time and money, and avoiding investment in this area can be more costly in the long-run.

Despite the fact that having the right software or systems in place may seem like a “no-brainer”,  failure to embrace technology is still widespread.

According to US-UK research, commissioned by global software company Redwood and conducted by Vanson Bourne, most SMEs recognise that automating manual processes is hugely important. However, many admit that they have failed to fully take advantage of the technology solutions available to them. And it’s not just about cost…

The research surveyed corporate decision-makers from 300 companies. It found that all organisations claim to automate processes to some degree, but that it was limited to certain tasks and functions – namely billing and HR/payroll.

Sixty-three percent of organisations surveyed spent more than a quarter of their time completing repetitive manual tasks…

So, what’s the big hold up?

If the case for greater automation is so clear cut, why the lag in uptake?

The reasons, survey respondents cited, included not having the right knowledge to do so (51%); managing complex processes (64%); and being unable to integrate legacy applications with new applications (65%).

The times, they are a-changin’

It’s likely that things in Ireland are similar to the findings uncovered
in the UK & US.

There is, however, work underway to address the challenges in an Irish context. With EU directives in place to increase training needs and reduce the administrative burden on companies, the Irish government and local business owners appear to be waking up to the need for better use of technology in SMEs.

Indeed, the uptake of work-based training programs through the ‘Skillnets’ organisation indicates a strong appetite among Irish SME owners for developing core competencies in technology for business processes and administration.

The SME cohort represented 85% of our member companies. In total, member companies invested €11.7 million in match funding in 2015’, wrote Skillnets’ CEO Paul Healy in the company’s 2015 annual report.

Keyboard mightier than the pen

For many Irish businesses still reliant on paperwork, the realisation that the keyboard is mightier than the pen can’t come quick enough.

Software systems minimise manual inputs, decrease margins of error, increase data security, ensure greater transparency and track compliance cooperation.  

According to the Redwood commissioned report on automation, 80% of enterprises surveyed said automation delivered time savings; 70% cited improved business productivity; and 62% said it regularly provided cost savings.

While most business owners and operators have an acute understanding of their product, service and industry, they might be less well-versed in the range of innovative software solutions available to them.

Technology can deliver efficiencies across the entire range of business functions. The right software systems are a worthy investment for any business.

If you have plans to purchase new business software or upgrade your current systesms, Linked Finance can provide business loans to cover just such an investment.