Mid-sized businesses underestimate strategic value of IT, IBM survey shows

IBM has released new research, conducted by independent specialists Vanson Bourne, which shows mid-sized businesses (MSBs) are not achieving best business value from their IT systems.

Results show that 82 per cent of respondents believe they have the right IT infrastructure to support business goals. However, when prompted to identify desired benefits, 59 per cent admitted their existing IT systems were unable to support them to the required level.  David Stokes, VP SMB, UK Ireland and South Africa, IBM, said, "For medium businesses, technology is critical. The fact that so many MSBs are satisfied with systems that fail to deliver on key growth strategies suggests that its strategic value is not properly understood. Implemented properly, the right IT infrastructure can provide the business answers MSBs are looking for with an affordable ROI."

The key desired benefits identified by 350 business owners and IT decision-makers of companies with 50-500 employees were (in order of priority):  
Improve employee productivity
Improve responsiveness to customers (and/or suppliers and partners)
Analyse and use information to make better business decisions
Enhance IT security, dependability, compliance

Only 41 per cent felt that their current systems supported the top three of these requirements. 39 per cent claimed to be supported on two of the three and 15 per cent supported on just one. Six per cent said their current IT infrastructure failed to support any of these key benefits.

Medium-sized businesses put equal emphasis on internal productivity benefits and non-internal benefits, allowing them to respond more efficiently to the market while remaining focused on their core business; key characteristics of an on demand business. In contrast, some customer facing benefits were lower priorities, for example, improving the customer experience is important for just 30 per cent of respondents and driving product and service differentiation is important for just 11 per cent.

"Small and medium size business struggle day by day just to maintain the operational effectiveness of their IT systems," said Tony Lock, Chief Analyst Bloor Research.  "At the same time there is an absolute requirement that they improve the connection between their IT systems and the support they deliver to ever expanding business demands. SMBs are the lifeblood of the European economy and, as such, it is essential their use of information technology systems be optimised to deliver visible business benefits in these days of on flexible computing."

The survey revealed some good news for MSBs. Of those whose IT systems did support all their key business goals, almost half (43 per cent) were planning further upgrades over the next 12 months.

David Stokes concludes, "It is clear that many of the MSBs that have used technology to be competitive are continuing to invest in order to stay ahead. While this is to be applauded, the great pity is that this is a benchmark when it should be common practice."

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