By John Antunes, director SME & Channels, SAP UKI

Being small isn’t to say you aren’t serious. By their very nature, small businesses have been able to multiply and grow thanks; largely due to their agility in responding quickly to market conditions. But, is speed really the key to long-term success? Or is ability more important than agility when it comes to understanding where to invest in your business?

A report by tech start-up Basekit released earlier this year suggested that ability is lacking amongst small businesses; 60% are yet to develop an online presence — a significant figure given that the majority recognise its importance in developing new business leads (75%).

Conversely, one in ten SME owners surveyed admitted that their website uses out of date technology, and only a quarter are able to process transactions online. Add to this that just one in ten existing SME websites are compatible with mobile phones and tablets, and it’s clear that these businesses have some catching up to do.

Why? Because their size is dictating their approach to adopting new processes and technology. Websites are the shop fronts of today’s businesses and with competition for custom more fierce than ever, small businesses can’t afford any mistakes. But it’s not just the website department that SMEs are struggling with, many don’t know (or understand) which technologies they need, and which ones are appropriate to facilitate long-term growth.

A few things worth considering when it comes to making important investment decisions, include:

Do allow your size to dictate the speed in which you are able to adopt new processes — you don’t necessarily have to go through lengthy procurement debates like a large corporate might. Make the most of the speed at which you can introduce new technology.

Don’t think that just because you’re small, your investment in technology should be too. Think beyond today and how you want your business to grow over the next five years, and how technology can facilitate that growth.

Do look at what your competitors are doing and find ways in which you can fill their gaps or offer something slightly different — competition amongst today’s SMEs is fierce and being aware of what your competitors are doing is crucial to developing your own strategies.

Don’t spend time worrying about driving traffic to your website until the look and feel is perfect — one bad visit will mean loss in custom altogether.

Do some research into the various functionalities of your website so that you know how they work yourself — you are responsible for your business and you need to know if something isn’t working correctly, this doesn’t require a degree in IT, just some homework and a basic understanding of how things work.

Don’t rely too heavily on social media, treat it as an add-on to your website — as with business applications, you have a core system in place that needs to be reliable and wholly owned by you.

Do build your website with mobile in mind, failure to do so will limit your target audience — m-commerce is on the rise, as is mobile working, allowing your website (and other aspects of your business) to be accessed from any device is vital.

In my opinion, agility is an intrinsic, key trait of SMEs which enables them to gain competitive advantage against larger enterprises, but ability is the number one enabler. Today’s business owners need to know much more about wider business issues and decisions that need to be made, beyond the traditional roles of managing budgets and employees. There is so much to think about with regards to customer loyalty, social media and innovative mobile and cloud technologies, to name just a few. But it’s a learning curve which needs to be approached with an open mind. Ignoring technologies, even on the most basic of levels, or thinking small about what your organisation could achieve, will negatively impact your business and its growth potential.