This annual snapshot of how Irish business people feel about business in Ireland is based on a comprehensive survey by Three Ireland. It provides a unique insight into the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and what your peers and competitors are thinking – and doing – about them.
This year’s headline news is that most Irish businesses believe there is reason for optimism. The report – and its commentary from Three Ireland’s experts – goes behind the headline, to answer the questions it raises: such as how businesses intend to capitalise on their optimism.
However that’s not the only change affecting Irish businesses since last year’s report. Technology has continued its rapid development, digitalisation is transforming the way businesses operate, and customer expectations never remain the same for long.
To remain competitive, it’s essential to stay abreast of your peers’ point of views. The Irish Business Mindset Report 2018 will help.
By looking at the bigger picture and bringing their specialist expertise and inside knowledge to bear, Three’s expert commentators tease out the real stories behind the numbers and explain their relevance to your business and its future.
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Head of SME Business, who considers the state of mind of Ireland’s small-medium businesses (SMEs) and what lies behind it.
Chair, Business Transformation Team, who discusses the vital requirement for digital transformation among SMEs.
Head of Business Care, highlights the growing realisation among SMEs of the importance of the customer experience.
Head of 3Connected Solutions, looks at the importance of the cloud and the opportunities it presents.
Not only has optimism increased, but the percentage of those surveyed who are “concerned” has also fallen, by half: from 8.25% to 4.16%.
Since an imminent influence on Irish business is Brexit, and Brexit negotiations were still unresolved at the time of the survey, does this mean that Irish businesses are seeing its potential benefits or ignoring its potential consequences?
The first time the question was posed, 62% saw technology as playing a central role in business priorities and growth strategy. One year on and that figure has increased to 70%.
With a growing awareness of the need for digital transformation, the idea that technology is a cost rather than an opportunity is fast being overtaken by a clear understanding of its role in creating successful SMEs.
70% of respondents to this year’s survey consider themselves more proactive than their competitors regarding their technology investments – representing a 6% increase on last year. They also feel they lead the way in their industry with many of their technology investment decisions.
This proactive, pioneering and forward-looking approach of the majority of Irish SMEs towards investment in technology can only help to drive higher levels of investment, more technology adoption, and greater overall competitiveness as a result.
Their order of priorities hasn’t changed in the last twelve months, with business operations systems and infrastructure improvements still being the top priority, and improving the customer experience still being the bottom. However, what has changed is the percentage of respondents who plan significant investment in improving customers’ interactions with their business.
From 26% last year to 35% this year, there is a sizeable increase in the number of SMEs who – having realised the importance of the customer experience – have also realised the importance of investing to improve it.
More Irish SMEs than ever before are embracing the possibilities of technology to enhance their customer experience. 86% of businesses surveyed (a 15% increase on 2017) now have a website and 9% more are selling online.
Only 5% of survey respondents say they are not making any use of cloud services, down from 15% in 2017. It’s also interesting to look at what cloud services SMEs are using.
File storage and sharing (arguably the “entry-level” cloud services) still lead the way, but there appears to be a willingness to think beyond these most obvious uses, with a significant 50% increase in the use of cloud-based productivity tools and apps. Those using the cloud to facilitate calls and messaging using applications such as Skype and WhatsApp also saw a 50% increase from 2017.
The fact that today’s SMEs expect seamless connectivity at all times and in all places means that mobile communications are key. The number of respondents who say they are essential or important to their business, its productivity and efficiency has risen from 94% to 97%.
Last year respondents placed “reducing cost” as second only to “increasing productivity” as their reason for investigating a new business phone system. This year, cost has slipped down the list of priorities. “Increasing productivity” still heads the list, but now “reducing risk” is seen as the second most influential factor.
There appears to be a growing realisation that any savings made on what turns out to be an unsuitable phone system could be wiped out if effective risk reduction isn’t part of the package.
Is it optimism that encourages Irish businesses to invest in technology, to adopt greater use of the cloud, and to undergo digital transformation? Or is it their technology investments, their cloud adoption and their digital transformation that is making Irish businesses more optimistic?
Perhaps it’s simply a virtuous circle or a set of self-fulfilling circumstances.
Chicken or egg? Whichever came first, those Irish SMEs making the best use of technology to increase their efficiency and productivity have got it cracked.