Finnish SMEs haven’t still found the opportunities of digitalisation

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SWiPE researcher Pekka Stenholm from the University of Turku has researched the backgrounds and ambitions of the SMEs that utilize digitalisation. The research has been conducted on the basis of data from the SME barometer of the Federation of the Finnish Enterprises from autumn 2017. In the light of the barometer, it appears that the use of digitalisation is not progressing in small and medium-sized enterprises, although digitalisation is seen important.

The study focused on four areas of digital activity related to the changes of work and business:

  • Platform economy (e.g. utilization of the Uber-type of sales, marketing and service channel)
  • Use of Big data (e.g. in market analysis)
  • Digital customer services
  • Industrial Internet (new business solutions that enable industrial equipment to communicate automatically with each other)

The results showed that digitalisation is utilised in smaller companies, especially in service sector companies. On the other hand, industrial Internet is the most exploited in industrial enterprises and in slightly larger SMEs. The companies that exploit digitalisation operate mainly in local and regional markets. Companies that use digital customer services in particular do not operate in the international market.

The results of the SME barometer show that the activity of Finnish SMEs in the digital economy is heavily focused on two areas – Internet home pages and social media.

As regards the technological potential of the future, the situation looks challenging. Big data, industrial Internet, platform economy or digital customer services are much less exploited and the intentions to put them into operation are minimal. The implementation of digitalisation appears to be dependent on smaller SMEs. Half of the companies that use platform economy and digital customer services are companies employing fewer than 5 people.

Industrial SMEs use more industrial Internet than other forms of digitalisation.

The companies that use platform economy are experiencing the economical situations better than the other respondents, and SMEs using digitalisation are quite growth-oriented compared to all respondents.

HR Development is slightly more frequent in companies utilizing big data, whereas companies exploiting digitalisation were more likely to develop export and internationalisation when compared with all SME barometer respondents. Companies using industrial Internet also highlight the need to develop production and material activities, information technology and the development of R&D and quality.

The companies using platform economy experienced difficulties in the development of business regulation and the availability of workforce. The companies utilizing big data, in turn, highlighted the challenges of access to finance more often than in other companies involved in the comparison.

Read more about senior researcher Pekka Stenholm’s research here (in Finnish).