RSM thinkBIG 2017 survey reveals challenges and strengths for Australian SMEs

Digital security remains a significant risk for most small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners, according to RSM Australia’s thinkBIG 2017 findings.

Many SME owners still don’t recognise the importance of regularly reviewing their information security policies, with this figure remaining startlingly low; almost half of thinkBIG respondents said they don’t review their information security policies annually. This is despite a landscape of increasing cyber threats and attacks, and reports from the Australian Cyber Security Centre showing that 90 per cent of organisations faced some form of attempted or successful cybersecurity compromise in the 2015-16 financial year. (1)  

Peter Saccasan, national head of business advisory, RSM Australia, said:

“The low proportion of SME owners reviewing information security policies regularly is concerning, as it suggests that SMEs have not engaged in what is a serious matter that could lead to significant loss.

This year’s thinkBIG survey found that nearly half (44 per cent) of SME owners were not confident in their organisation’s ability to withstand a cyberattack, with 42 per cent of respondents planning to increase their cybersecurity resources in the next 12 months.

Peter Saccasan said:

“Digital security should be a higher priority for all Australian businesses regardless of size. Many savvy hackers are choosing to infiltrate smaller businesses that partner with large enterprises as a way to target those otherwise well-secured but attractive targets. By keeping their own business protected, SMEs can help protect their trading partners, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.”

Digital investment

Doing nothing in the technology space is no longer an option for SMEs who must accept that digital transformation is now a given for businesses to remain viable. Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of SME owners have invested in digital tools and technology over the past 12 months, pointing to a growing acceptance that technology has become an essential and indispensable part of doing business.

Respondents invested in one or more areas of relevant technology. The most common area for investment in digital tools and technology was the company website, with 39 per cent of respondents investing in it in the past 12 months. The same level of respondents (39 per cent) also invested in social media platforms, a slight decline of three per cent compared with the response in 2016. More than one third (36 per cent) of respondents invested in cloud-based accounting and related systems, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) investing in marketing technology such as customer relationship management software, marketing automation, and campaign email systems. 23 per cent also invested in communications systems and 20 per cent of respondents invested in digital advertising.

Peter Saccasan said:

“Just nine per cent of respondents invested in e-commerce solutions, despite the ongoing growth of online shopping. This low level may be due to organisations already having a working e-commerce system in place, or because they don’t offer online shopping capabilities. In the latter case, this could result in the business missing out on revenue opportunities, and it could be worth investigating e-commerce options.  With Amazon coming to Australia, the focus on the online is about to heightened.”

Laurel Grey, senior digital analyst, RSM Australia said:

“There is an array of tools and technology available to SMEs today that can make a difference. Owners should consider a review of everything from the mundane and routine to the complex and important practices in their businesses to see just what the possibilities are.

“One of the challenges SME owners face is choosing and implementing the right technologies out of so many different options. SMEs that simply purchase a technology don’t always get the support they need to implement it or understand exactly what choices to make for the best business results.  A digital audit process can bring together just exactly what the technology needs and gaps are for an SME.”

thinkBIG has measured the pulse of the Australian SME sector since 2005. It benchmarks business growth, business planning, exit planning, superannuation and the impact and uptake of technology. 216 business owners participated in the 2017 study, providing insights into how Australian SMEs feel about their business and what keeps them awake at night.

(1) Australian Cyber Security Centre 2016 Cyber Security Survey