Its official: SMEs that make effective use of the Internet and computer technology tend to be more competitive than those that do not. 

In its fifth year, SME Survey 2007 backed by Standard Bank and Fujitsu Siemens Computers, sets out to identify the business enabling technologies which successful SMEs use to increase their competitive edge.
“Technology is a real business enabler,” says Steven Sanders, distribution channel manager at Fujitsu Siemens Computers. “Today, companies are far savvier about technology and constantly seek to optimise their business efficiency through harnessing the opportunities that technology brings them. The business world has reached a level of IT-maturity with IT playing a core role in enabling the company to deliver on its strategy.”
Arthur Goldstuck, principal researcher of the survey, says: “The interim results already indicate that there are common IT-related factors that astute business owners take advantage of to improve the performance of their company.”
While factors common to the competitive SME include company type, duration of operation and turnover among others, Goldstuck reserves special mention for ICT factors. He says high speed Internet connectivity, mobile solutions including WiFi, multifunction devices and the services of specialist software and hardware companies contribute to improved competitiveness.
“Companies that use these resources consistently fare better than those that do not,” he says.
Particularly around Internet connectivity and mobility, the claims of vendors and solution providers appear to be valid at the interim stage of the Survey.
“These technologies increase productivity and contribute to more competitive companies in the SME environment,” Goldstuck says. “It also affirms the need for low-cost connectivity as a resource for improved business performance. Any use of the Internet tends to make a company more competitive. Those using emerging services like Voice over IP are significantly ahead.
“Over the past four years SME Survey examined areas that cause SMEs to regard themselves as competitive. This year’s survey differs because one of the primary intentions is to create something of a blueprint of what makes an SME highly competitive,” says Goldstuck.
He is quick to point out that the results are not a blueprint for success, but rather should serve as an indication of what smart companies use.
“There is no substitute for a great idea backed by sound business principles. We’re identifying what the entrepreneur needs to support their good idea and increase success.”
He points out that the highest correlation between competitiveness and any one of the factors is 90%.
“This indicates that 10% of competitive companies do not necessarily rely on advanced technology for their competitiveness; it is possible to run an effective company without these tools, but using them where appropriate definitely appears to support improved productivity and competitiveness,” says Goldstuck.