World economy is recovering, but not all regions are growing at a homogenous pace. In mature countries, companies are having a hard time to recuperate competitiveness in increasingly global markets. This might be particularly difficult for small and medium enterprises, which sometimes stand out for product or service excellence, but might not have the right organisation and leadership to fight international competitors.
As an effect of globalisation, SMBs feel their domestic markets to be shrinking (due to languishing demand) and becoming overcrowded (due to the entrance of foreign companies). Unless they manage to serve highly specialised, niche market segments, expansion over national borders is one of the viable options. Internationalisation is fascinating, but an onerous journey, requiring a clear strategy and solid capabilities, as well as financial resources.
Digital technologies are a key ally for SMBs going international, as it won’t be possible to compete in a potentially global scenario without having adequate tools to steer, manage and innovate the organisation, its offering and business models. How far are SMBs investing in their digital transformation?
Let’s circumscribe the question to Italy. A recent survey by Talent Garden stated that about 38% of Italian SMBs are spending less than 10% of their annual turnover for digital technologies, and only 6% have a digital budget accounting for about 30% of revenues. Investments are mostly focusing on marketing and sales, but there’s a growing share of businesses prioritising cloud and software projects (45% of respondents), Internet of Things (22%) and machine learning (17%).
Questioned about their expectations over digitalisation, about 62% of SMBs looks for increased competitiveness (62%) and productivity (49%), improved customer relations (48%), enhanced workflows (49%), and better chances to establish at international level (19%).
As 43% of SMBs complains about the lack of internal digital skills, a trusted partner is often necessary to bring the right competencies and expertise, above all when dealing with complex, mission-critical IT projects.