Many SMBs can’t integrate apps: survey

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A survey by ACNeilsen.consult suggests 44 percent of Australian SMBs may have no connectivity between office applications, despite their investments in sophisticated business software.

The ACNeilsen.consult survey -- sponsored by Sydney-based business intelligence software vendor Net Return -- asked 23 questions of business executives at 178 companies with five to 200 staff.

Most of the 178 respondents said they had already invested in “sophisticated business software”. However, 44 percent could not share data across applications, the survey found.

Eighty-nine percent had in-house accounting packages, 53 percent had business reporting tools, 49 percent owned customer contact management software and 34 percent used inventory tracking applications. Despite this, 58 percent claimed they could not quickly access company information stored via different applications.

“The lack of integration is forcing SMBs to rely on manual [reporting] processes,” according to a statement released by Net Return.

Common management reports -- such as accounts receivable, revenue forecasts and sales -- were still collated manually by a quarter of SMBs. As a result, many companies were unable to harness real-time data in their decision-making, the survey found.

Half of SMBs surveyed used business reports based on information a week or more old, and only 15 percent had reporting that offered an “up to the minute” view of the business, it stated.

Of the respondents, 26 percent claimed to have had problems due to inaccurate company information and 21 percent had problems they put down to “out-dated” business data.

The survey also found that, of those firms with some application connectivity, 22 percent only linked payments with accounts.

However, it was unclear from the survey whether lack of connectivity was due to the applications themselves, or to businesses failing to take advantage of integration functionality that already existed.

Some 47 percent of survey respondents claimed that business software was too complex and not designed for SMBs, with 66 percent adding that business software was too expensive to buy or install.

Stuart McLean, managing director of Net Return, said larger companies had more money to pay for complex bug fixes, customisation, installations and upgrades. Price was key for SMBs, with many having no formal IT budget. Many could afford less than $10,000 a year on IT.

Net Return -- which provides services as well as software -- recommended an ASP-type model. “The industry has gone full circle since the days of time-share computing and companies are becoming increasingly receptive to the idea of using rather than owning IT,” McLean said.

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