By Daniel Hunter

The Think Bigger: Innovation Champions report, issued by SAP (UK) Limited indicates that innovation is the greatest challenge for one in three (31%) small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over the next 24 months.

SMEs are reassessing and challenging their existing processes and in doing so, hope to achieve their potential through greater efficiencies (36), improved engagement (34%) and more developed infrastructures (34).

The independent industry report, commissioned by SAP, of 254 senior business decision makers from UK based SMEs explores the challenges businesses must embrace in order to achieve sustained growth. In theory, SMEs are true innovators however, in practice, implementing an innovative mind-set across the business is difficult with just 40% recognising innovation is important for achieving growth.

As many as 40% of SMEs believe greater access to technology has driven the need to innovate; reflected in the increased use of mobile technology over the last 12 months (66%) with over three quarters (77%) citing cloud as fairly important or critical to achieving their business objectives.

Key findings of the report include:

· One in five SMEs seek to grow at a faster rate than their competitors
· 40% of SMEs believe innovation is the most important factor for achieving growth
· Nearly one third of SMEs admit innovation provides the greatest challenge to their business over the next 24 months
· While technology proves to be the driver for innovation, cost (50%), time required to update new systems (41%) and the need to teach employees new skills (37%) are the main barriers to adopting technology

John Antunes, director SME & Channels SAP UKI & Netherlands, said: “Thinking beyond the confines of the business, SMEs need to focus efforts on external forces in order to be more innovative in their approach to growth. Whilst often it’s easy for businesses to get caught up with internal issues, external positioning is a core differentiator for SMEs moving into 2014.”

This report comes following SAP’s 2012 survey which revealed UK SMEs were divided over future growth plans. As an extension of the findings, this years’ survey covers larger scale businesses also - with up to 1000 employees - to provide a benchmark for smaller businesses in their pursuit of thinking bigger.

Antunes continues, “With growth aspirations and the need to compete with larger enterprises, smaller businesses need to take advantage of learning’s they can gather from medium sized organisations and start Thinking Bigger; SAP intends to continue to help SMEs achieve this.”

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