By Eimear Dodd Journalism MA student, @TheCity_Dublin editor, @Irish_TechNews

Recent research by Vodafone Ireland has found that SMEs are upbeat in their outlook for the year ahead, despite the threat posed by Brexit with almost two thirds claiming that the health of their business has improved in the past 12 months.

The survey was commissioned to mark the official launch of Vodafone’s ‘One Net Business’ unified communications solution, which allows SMEs to combine all of their communications tools into one solution hosted on the cloud. Around 200 Irish SMEs took part in the survey which was carried out in early April. Participants were asked about their business sentiments and use of technology in their working lives.

Results show that the past 12 months have been positive for the majority of SMEs that were surveyed, with 66 percent saying they are positive and confident about the next 12 months. While 61 percent said they felt that the overall health of their industry has improved and 59 percent said that Ireland has improved as a place to do business.

Embracing technology is an important enabler to SMEs, with 96 percent of those surveyed having a website and 68 percent having a social media presence. However, only 34 percent have the ability to process orders online. Changes or advancements in technology and systems available that allow SMEs to better interact with customers’ and ‘advancements in technology and systems available to run operations’ were considered as the biggest opportunities for businesses by those surveyed.

In terms of the challenges that SMEs are facing, 67 percent said they are concerned that they may miss out on business opportunities due to poor communications infrastructure. 61 percent stated that it can be difficult at times to coordinate communications between their business and clients/customers. 25 percent of employees in SMEs surveyed said that they have personally missed a call or email which lead to or may have resulted in a missed business opportunity.

Anne Sheehan, Enterprise Director at Vodafone Ireland, said about the findings: “It is great to see a significant proportion of SMEs have a positive economic outlook and are recognising that improved technology can play a critical role in strengthening their business.

The research highlights how important connectivity is to help Irish SMEs reach their full potential, with 94% of SMEs agreeing that that high speed broadband is critical for running a business. At Vodafone Ireland we are committed to the Gigabit Society, one where there is equality of access to one Gigabit speeds of connectivity regardless of your location in Ireland.”

The research also provided some insight into how SMEs run their businesses in Ireland in 2017. 63 percent of those surveyed provide mobiles, tablets or desk phones to their employees. Almost three quarters said that they and their staff have a high to moderate level of flexibility where they work.

Just under 30 percent of SMEs said they source revenue from online sales. Of these, 41 percent have said that the revenue from their online sales has increased over the past two years. 53 percent said that the percentage of revenue sourced from online sales has remained the same over the past two years while only 5 percent said the percentage of revenue from online sales has decreased over the past two years.

Speaking about these patterns, Joanna Gilfoy, Head of Enterprise Product Vodafone Ireland said: “Vodafone works closely with its customers to ensure we provide a service that best serves their needs. We were struck by the fact that 25 percent of employees in the SMEs surveyed said that they have personally missed a call or email which resulted in a missed business opportunity.

Our One Net Business (ONB) product will offer customers a simple, cost effective way of combining all their communication needs into one cloud based solution, hosted locally here in Ireland.

This way our customers, employees and suppliers can be seamlessly connected whether they’re in the office or on the move. The product provides future-proofed technology that allows customers to delegate and control customer queries and ensure an enhanced customer experience without the expensive tech infrastructure.”

More information about One Net Business can be found at www.vodafone.ie/onenetbusiness


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