Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) risk stunting business growth in the new financial year by spending too much time on business administration.

A new survey by accounting firm, Bentleys, reveals less than one in three (29 per cent) SMEs use cloud based services for their accounting and finances, meaning the majority are still wasting time on outdated, manual processes. This lost time could potentially be spent expanding their products or services and generating new clients.

With too many SMEs missing out on the benefits of cloud, the new financial year is the time for SMEs to embrace the technology, according to Bentleys director, Robin Allardice. He estimates that an SME that migrates its accounting to the cloud can save up to 80 per cent of the time typically spent on administration.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the Australian economy and in the current landscape, it’s absolutely vital that they are well equipped to compete,” he says. “Cloud technology can help SMEs succeed by creating efficiencies that free up the time to focus on innovation. The reduced admin burden alone gives SMEs more time to explore new areas of revenue generation.”

The Voice of Australian Business Survey also revealed 46 per cent of SMEs do not at all, or only slightly understand what cloud computing is; when it came to non-metro based SMEs this figure rose to 56 per cent. While security was a major concern for SMEs; 46 per cent of respondents cited it as a main reason for not moving to the cloud, yet only 7 per cent of those using the cloud already reported breaches on cloud-based services that they use.

“We’ve found many SMEs have reservations when it comes to security in the cloud, but often I think this is down to misunderstanding. Many of the applications people currently use in their private lives are cloud based. For example take email, and internet banking, both ubiquitous and what most people would consider highly personal, yet both are cloud-based services.

“SMEs are missing out on the benefits of being on the cloud, such as automating time consuming business processes, increased access to up-to-date financial information, and secure, regular backups of important information,” he says.

Allardice suggests businesses not currently on the cloud ask the following questions:
1. Are you already using cloud services such as internet banking or Gmail? Are you happy with them and would you like to use some of the same efficiencies in your business?
2. Do a stocktake of the software you are currently paying for – and what you actually use. Are you paying for functionality you don’t need? Cloud products use a subscription model and you only pay for what you want.
3. Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on administrative tasks? With a cloud model, many processes can be automated. You can also access your data anytime, anywhere and from any device so you can do your administrative work as you go rather than after hours; we believe you can reduce your administrative time by up to 80 per cent.
4. Are you still keeping paper of documents such as receipts, invoices or payslips? Cloud products allow you to free yourself from paper by maintaining copies of documents electronically and securely.
5. Is your current data backed up regularly? Cloud providers back up your data on a regular basis so it is available when you need it.