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Covid-19 Shocked SMEs Turning To Tech For Salvation

While many Kiwi SME owners have long been famous for their 'she'll be right' approach to managing a business, Covid-19 may have startled many business operators out of their apathy and steered them towards putting more money, time and effort into technology.

"The Covid-19 lockdown was a shock to many businesses, and it has resulted in a shift in the kind of work our business is doing," says tech company OneHQ director Warren Hughes. "You might say the thinking is moving from making do with 'Number 8 Wire' to embracing more advanced, innovative technology.

"Many New Zealand SMEs I have worked with over the last 30 years did not have clearly defined or articulated goals. They tended to operate based on organic (reactionary) and tactical development. Covid-19 forced a rethink on business and what we are trying to achieve -- nobody wants to be tied up in the day-to-day anymore -- but instead to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible."

Hughes says he often finds that the business technology systems in your average Kiwi business haven't kept pace with the changing needs of their business.

"We find that importers, exporters and manufacturers -- who make up most of our client base across New Zealand -- are cautiously optimistic, but it's not a business as usual mindset. The last few months forced businesses to make decisions and examine more closely their efficiency.

"The result is that they are no longer postponing change. They're engineering and leaning towards greater automation. One client, a manufacturer was dealing with high, demand before the Covid-19 lockdown. They had to shut down all production during the lockdown, and that has driven demand through the roof. They need to automate more to cope."

While businesses owners are eager to automate, Hughes says his advice to many is that technology and human development go hand-in-hand and neither should be ignored at the expense of the other.

"Much of the inquiry coming our way is for a digital review process because business owners are trying to make those connections between the plans they have for the business and the technology they'll need to achieve them, at the right time and pace."

For those business owners contemplating 'future-proofing' their businesses through future upheavals like the Covid-19 lockdown, and the potential downturn that may result, Hughes offers the following tips on how to conduct a digital review process:

1. Understand the metrics

Workshop your metrics, your goals and your already known challenges.

"Map out your critical business processes to identify the unknown opportunities for improvement."

2. Roadmap your business technology and people requirements

"Turn the business processes that come out of your workshop into an easy-to-understand format. Create a set of recommendations for the actions you can take to improve the use of technology and people in your business, along with the expected return-on-investment."

3. Implement an action plan

"Assign costs to each step you're going to take, along with potential resourcing issues, bottlenecks and required staff training."

Hughes says that while in the past most businesses were too busy executing processes to map them, many businesses were now aware of the need to future proof.

"Don't put everything at risk by rushing in. Buying big enterprise software solutions that offer to do it all for you is the biggest mistake most businesses make. Understand your needs first, plan to achieve your goals and then add whatever resourcing -- including technology -- you need."

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