CompTIA: SMBs See Technology as Crucial, But ROI Uncertainties Remain

A new report by CompTIA, the IT industry association, shows SMBs see technology as a primary factor in meeting business objectives even though some have mixed feelings about the return on their investment.

CompTIA surveyed some 600 SMBs for “The Business Relevance of IT in the SMB Market.” Cybersecurity, data utilization, and the modernization of legacy infrastructure and applications were cited as key areas for improvement, which opens up opportunities for channel partners with the right mix of technology, business and sector-specific expertise to play a role in guiding purchasing decisions by recommending appropriate offerings for their SMB customers, CompTIA said.

CompTIA's Tim Herbert“This highlights a key challenge: balancing the desire to embrace innovation with the realities of running the business,” said Tim Herbert, CompTIA’s senior vice president of research and market intelligence.

Top SMB objectives for the coming year include: customer retention (50 percent); expansion into new markets (48 percent); business-process improvement (46 percent); innovation (42 percent); and workforce development (34 percent).

One in three SMBs reports spending more than $100,000 annually, with the remainder spending less, according to the report. Some 43 percent said they are investing less than they should be.{ad}

While three in five (60 percent) SMBs believe their return on investment (ROI) in technology has been excellent or good, the other two (40 percent) categorize it as “just OK” or disappointing. Among the reasons are: ongoing maintenance costs and fees; required upgrades and built-in obsolescence; staff time needed to operate and maintain; upfront costs; and complexity.

The sentiment on ROI is accompanied by a caveat, CompTIA said. Only one in five SMBs reports using dedicated ROI calculators to evaluate the impact of their technology spend. Others rely on more general or informal tools, or on “ballpark” estimates. Still, it signals the need for technology providers to fine tune their ROI discussions with customers.

“Because technology is often positioned as being capable of delivering on the seemingly impossible, expectations can be detached from reality,” Herbert said. “This can be especially problematic for small businesses that may not have a clear vision and strategy for how various components or technology come together to form a solution or solve a business problem. Technology solution providers can play a bigger role in the ROI discussion with customers by setting realistic expectations, identifying indirect benefits of technology spending and providing big-picture strategic guidance and focused, tactical expertise.”

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