Online meeting software is the most popular tool among South African SMEs

As we enter 2021, South African citizens have been alerted of a possible third wave of the pandemic. Businesses are now being forced to adapt to the new ways of working to ensure long term businesses continuity.

During the first wave of the pandemic, working from home was mandatory during lockdown, and people were confined to their homes unless they were performing essential services. Software has played a vital role in ensuring that businesses transform successfully in response to the pandemic.

We surveyed over 600 SME business leaders about their experiences in the implementation of new tools and the business benefits. The results show that although the implementation of software has been very satisfying with a positive impact in the survival of businesses during the pandemic, more changes will need to be implemented as businesses evolve to fully embrace digital technologies.

business benefits of software implementation during pandemic

South African businesses (still) need to protect themselves against cyberattacks

The results of the survey revealed that 48% of South African businesses purchase online meeting tools in response to social distancing requirements and the implementation of remote work policies. Going virtual has sparked rapid rise in cybercrime, which has become a major threat to the South African business landscape. This threat has now positioned the country at the third highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, losing about R2.2 billion a year to cyber-attacks.

In addition, 40% of respondents state having invested in e-commerce software and 38% in Virtual Private Network to protect their systems’ vulnerability against cyberattacks. 37% of business leaders indicated that they bought website software, endpoint protection software and 38% project management software, possibly as a strategy to operate efficiently.

tools purchased during pandemic

Half of South African SMEs are satisfied with their software implementation

53% of respondents indicated being very satisfied with the software they have implemented. 46% of leaders have reported that software tools purchases have had a positive impact in helping their business survive the pandemic and a further 42% of respondents reported that these purchases have had a very positive impact. Whilst performance and efficiency still play a vital factor in all things digital, 53% of the surveyed respondents indicated that they are very satisfied with the software they are using, while 40% is somewhat satisfied.

The number of solutions acquired by business leaders have had a different impact across the company, enabling them to deliver results in different parts of the business such as allowing staff to work remotely, increase sales and improve the marketing strategy among other business benefits.

top 3 business benefits of software purchases

Despite the business benefits that software implementation has brough to South African SMEs since the beginning of the crisis, over a third of SME owners (37%) feel they will need to replace or eliminate at least one software programme in the next 12 months, as it may not be suiting the evolving business model at the time.

16% of respondents would eliminate at least one software programme due to financial constraints, while 28% indicated that they are reliant on all the software programmes they currently have, as such, a replacement or elimination phase would not be an option for them.

business areas South Afircan SMEs will invest in digitisation

Emerging technologies and employee training are key for the future

The current technological revolution has fundamentally altered the way we live, relate, and operate; steadily pushing more and more businesses towards the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). 4IR is being proclaimed as the answer to everything, from backlogs in education and skills development to companies cutting costs and serving their customers better.

It is critical to keep tabs on the key trends of emerging technologies to allow business to become more dynamic and responsive. According to World Economic Forum, emerging technologies have a potential to assist organisations in striving through the pandemic and also accelerating the economy if well implemented. Some of the emerging technologies are already in use while some become available in trading for different fields.

For instance, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have also become vital to enabling people to work from home and its biggest strengths is the ability to make those at a distance feel like they’re physically near each other. There’s a great number of VR companies betting that virtual reality office environments, remote collaboration, and working from home in VR are going to be the future of work.

Therefore, looking ahead is important for businesses to investigate how these emerging technologies will fit into their business models and start upskilling and retraining their employees in the necessary fields.

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Survey methodology

Data for this study was collected in December 2020 from an online survey of 649 respondents that live in South Africa.

To participate on the survey, respondents had to be:

  • Employed full-time in one of the following roles:
    • Owner, founder or other head of an organisation
    • C-Suite executive e.g. CEO, CIO
    • President of Vice-president
    • Director
    • Manager
  • Working for a company of up to 250 people
  • Working at the organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic