Yesterday, OKI Data Australia released the results of its third annual survey of 3,000 Australian SMEs aimed at understanding the efficiency challenges that they face.
The survey found that 82 per cent of Australian SMEs believe they are operating cost effectively, up from 76 per cent last year.
However, in the past 12 months, 51 per cent of businesses surveyed said they had implemented cost efficiency initiatives, down from 65 per cent the year prior.
“This year's results demonstrate that strong efficiency improvements continue to be made by Australian SMEs,” said Antonio Leone, marketing manager ANZ, OKI Data Australia.
“However, the research also shows there are still significant opportunities for more to be done.”
Mr Leone told Accountants Daily that accountants have an important role to play in assisting their SME clients to pursue further cost efficiency opportunities.
“With visibility and therefore ability to analyse the income and outgoings of their clients, accountants are in a unique position to be able to identify areas where cost efficiencies may be realised,” Mr Leone said.
One of the biggest limiting factors is a lack of available funds for investment, with 59 per cent of SMEs spending less than $5,000 a year on efficiency initiatives, and 85 per cent spending less than $15,000.
“These spending levels mean that, while general IT projects such as hardware, internet connections and printers are affordable, higher-end projects are out of reach. Topics such as Big Data and automation are often discussed, however financing initiatives in these areas is simply unrealistic for most SMEs,” Mr Leone said.
According to Mr Leone accountants are also well placed to advise their clients on how to source additional finance to pursue these initiatives.
“Some accountants may be qualified to provide advice or refer clients to sources of affordable finance solutions and or tools,” he told Accountants Daily.
“Also, through consultation, accountants may be able to directly assist their clients in achieving cost efficiencies that will free up funds for the pursuit of these initiatives after an analysis of the business income and expenses flow.”
Looking ahead, 21 per cent of SMEs indicated plans to implement cost efficiency initiatives during the coming 12 months, up from 13 per cent last year, providing opportunity for accountants to step in and assist.