THE small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need to improve themselves in terms of information technology (IT) and human capital.
SAP South East Asia vice-president and Singapore country manager, Kowshik Sriman, said SMEs tend to be “a bit apprehensive and fearful of IT because they are not used to it”.
He told StarBiz that SMEs need to be confident in adopting technology. “Those that can overcome this apprehension can look forward to handsome rewards.”
Kowshik, who is also head of SME business for SEA, said one of the key concerns of SMEs was IT implementation within the organisation.
“SMEs generally don’t have big IT departments, so they want to know how fast a solution can be deployed.
“At SAP, we try to bring down the complexity of deploying our solutions significantly,” he said, citing the company's Fast-Start Programme and Business One solutions as examples.
SAP claims that with its Fast-Start Programme, companies will be able to get industry-specific business processes up and running in six to eight weeks, compared with a few months to a year previously.
While there are technology providers offering solutions that can potentially help reduce costs, complexity and time to market, Kowshik believes that SMEs ultimately must be willing to take that first step to change.
“SMEs generally have more aggressive growth targets compared with large enterprises. I believe the key turning point for SMEs comes when they make IT decisions,” he said.
He said SMEs that have put in place the right processes and tools would be better equipped to execute and achieve their business strategies and targets.
He also said SMEs that were innovative would know how to adapt and benefit from changes in market dynamics.
“There are always temporary aberrations in the market that will affect businesses. Sometimes when these things happen, it gives an opportunity for stronger SMEs to emerge,” he said.
He cited IT tools as one of the pillars that could help businesses adapt more efficiently to market changes.
On human capital, Kowshik said SMEs should device measures that would help combat talent attrition.
“People are your biggest asset, more so if you are an SME. However, some have expressed concern on talent leakage,” he said, suggesting that SMEs develop a unique value proposition from a human resources perspective to retain talent.
He said he knew many people who would prefer to work for SMEs than large firms because they want to be part of the company's growth story.
“Individuals feel proud when they know they have contributed and made a difference to company growth,” he said.
Despite uncertainties in the economy, Kowshik believes opportunities are aplenty for local SMEs, as Malaysia's economy is relatively robust unlike some others in the region.
“You can have a recession or a credit crunch in the US, but there’s minimum flow through to Malaysia. I don’t see too much pessimism from our partners, customers and business leaders.
“There is a certain amount of optimism and confidence that the economy will be able to sustain,” he said.
SMEs now make up about 40% of SAP Malaysia's revenue and customer base.