SMBs prioritise technology despite ROI uncertainties

Small and medium-sized businesses see technology as a primary factor in meeting business objectives even though some have mixed feelings about the return on their investment in tech, according to a new report from CompTIA.

Among the 600 companies SMBs surveyed for CompTIA’s The Business Relevance of IT in the SMB Market report, the large majority cite technology as a primary or secondary factor in reaching business objectives and priorities.

Those priorities are led by renewing and maintaining key customer accounts and identifying new customers and markets. The technology “wish-list” for SMBs includes improving IT security, effectively managing and using data and modernising ageing equipment and software.


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

“Just Okay”

While 60%of SMBs believe their return on investment in technology has been excellent or good, 40% categorise it as “just okay” or disappointing. Among the reasons:

  • Ongoing maintenance costs and fees
  • Required upgrades and built-in obsolescence
  • Staff time needed to operate and maintain
  • Upfront costs
  • Complexity

The sentiment on ROI is accompanied by a caveat. Only one in five SMBs report 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.”

One such example is cybersecurity, where the benefits come in prevention. “Some firms are ill-equipped to assess the true value of risk mitigation versus cybersecurity spending,” Herbert said.

“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,”

Even with the mixed signals on ROI, four in 10 SMBs say their current level of spending on technology is too low.

The Business Relevance of IT in the SMB Market is based on an online survey of 600 U.S. SMBs conducted in August 2016.

The complete report is available at no charge here.