New research published today by Ricoh found that 79% of small businesses believe their ability to optimise processes quickly gives them a distinct advantage over large firms when implementing company-wide, transformative, technology-led initiatives. The research was commissioned by Ricoh and conducted by Coleman Parkes.

The research identified that 72% of small businesses prioritise technology leadership and a similar number (71%) have a clear vision in place. 82% of companies feel that advancing their technologies gives them the ability to compete effectively with large firms in their sector.

Gary Hopwood, general manager, Ricoh Ireland, said: “Small businesses are major employers in Ireland, representing 99% of all businesses in the economy and a 70% share of private sector employment. Therefore it’s crucial that we get a more precise understanding of what this sector’s technology needs are, and how its leaders plan to move their companies forward.”

The majority of the survey respondents (69%) expect to see an increase in profits from digital transformation. While most large companies believe that it will take five years to achieve digital maturity, more than a quarter of small firms think that this will happen within one to two years. 61% of small businesses see digital maturity as a golden opportunity to improve business processes and growth.

According to the small businesses surveyed, digital maturity will add value to their operations. They expect easier access to information and improved business processes (79%); less time required to complete tasks (74%); stronger competitive edge (68%); enhanced company reputation (67%); a more motivated and empowered workforce (59%); and better talent acquisition (54%).

Despite the advantages their agility brings, small businesses are more likely to struggle to resource technology-led initiatives, with 50% saying this will be an issue for them. Small companies are less likely to be able to spare senior employees to drive forward digital transformation projects with just over half confident that they can free up this resource. In addition, educating all the business functions of the benefits will pose a challenge for 46% of small businesses; changing the ways in which employees work will affect 48%; and aligning technology and ways of working will be a difficulty for 45% of companies surveyed.

Hopwood continues: “Despite their agility, small companies lack the resources available to their larger counterparts to drive associated cultural changes. Making the investment in working with external partners at the outset will ensure they implement new technologies effectively and help them stay competitive and profitable in the long run.