Why our SMIs shy away from technology

LESS than 10% of the Small and Medium Industries Association of Malaysia’s 3,000 members have implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) solutions in their operations.

That is a reflection of the sad state of information and communications technology (ICT) adoption among our SMIs.

Chua Tiam Wee, national president of the association, said that one of the reasons for this is that the businesses are not familiar with the technologies of today, such as cloud computing and systems that can help with decision-making in their operations.

He said another hurdle is that most SMIs believe employing technology is capital intensive.

“Also, they are worried that their staff will have to endure higher workloads as they strive to learn the new systems while conducting business as usual,” he said.

These fears are unfounded, said Khoo Teng Guan, general manager (South Asia) of the Small Medium Business division at Dell Global Business Centre Sdn Bhd, which promotes ICT use among SMIs.

Cloud computing, for example, would enable businesses with small budgets to “rent” solutions via the Internet instead of having to buy software licences to run programs on their office computers.

Khoo said the businesses would not even have to worry about maintaining the ICT systems because the task can be outsourced.

“And if the SMIs don’t see that these solutions are adding value to their business, they can just stop the services,” he said.

Technology vendors can also help the SMIs find out about the solutions by showcasing their products and services regularly, while educating the businesses on the benefits of ICT.

Chua agreed. “Currently half our members have accounting and human resource solutions, as well as a website. But they have to move to the next level, where ERP and CRM are important.

“To do this, they have to first be educated on the benefits of the technology,” he said.

Raymond Chee, managing director of Emerge Systems (M) Sdn Bhd, said his experience with ICT is worse.

“We spent RM800,000 on a server system to connect one million users to the company database, as well as to enable an e-mail system and collaboration tools, about four years ago,” he said.

But the implementation process did not go well and resulted in a lot of downtime. “It was by a reputable vendor, too. In the end, we had to scrap the whole thing and went to another vendor,” Chee said.

Fortunately, there was a happy ending for Emerge, which is a technology solutions provider. The moral of the story is that SMIs can never be too careful choosing vendors when making a major investment in ICT.

All were participating in a panel discussion, Making Technology Deliver the Bottom Line for SMBs (small and medium businesses), by IT vendor Dell Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

The discussion focused on how these businesses are using technology to cut costs, increase efficiency, improve customer relations, and remain competitive.

This was the first time Dell has organised such an event, and plans to have one every quarter.

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