SMEs in Colombia are going digital

SMEs in Colombia consider adopting new technologies important to economy recovery.

The survival of small and medium-sized companies in Colombia is essential for economic recovery from the impacts produced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, they represent more than 90% of the national productive sector, generate 35% of GDP and 80% of the country’s employment, according to DANE figures.

Faced with the decrease in economic activity experienced in 2020, thousands of SMEs have carried out important transformations to keep their businesses afloat: a recent study commissioned by Microsoft Colombia showed how 8 out of 10 made a change in their business due to the impact of the crisis health and that, within these changes, the adoption of technology has played a fundamental role

What changed due to COVID: acceleration in the adoption of technologies and remote work

Although many of the technological tools have been available for a long time and SMEs had already gradually incorporated them into their operations, the pandemic has indeed created a significant acceleration. 49% of SMEs consider that the adoption of new technologies accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic and more than the remaining 30% affirm that they had already consolidated this transformation before. However, for all of them, the crisis triggered the reinvention of their business objectives and strategies.

The most important change during COVID was the adoption of remote work: 1 in 2 SMEs adopted remote work after the pandemic. The impact of this transformation varied according to their size: while 72% of companies with more than 150 workers adopted it, only 29% of micro-companies did. In any case, the positive effects seem to have outweighed the disruptions that this implied: 54% of SMEs indicated that the main effect that remote work has had has been to improve the quality of life of employees.

The most relevant changes for the SME segment in terms of technology adoption were the acquisition of software for video calls and remote collaboration (68%). In the second place, with 61%, the purchase of portable computing equipment stands out. The third place was occupied by cloud storage, a modality adopted by 54% of SMEs. Among the larger companies, the strengthening of their cybersecurity systems also stands out.

In social distancing, one of the most pressing needs for SMEs was to find alternative ways to connect with their customers and open new markets thanks to digital marketing tools: 65% of these companies consider this to be one of the aspects that the company changed more significantly. 82% of the SMEs that made these changes focused on their communication through social networks and their website. Larger companies concentrated greater efforts with advertising investment in digital media.

In terms of human resources, remote work policies (65%), as well as training in digital technologies and skills (55%) represented the biggest changes for SMEs. For their part, microenterprises were the ones that most changed their hiring modality. Larger companies focused their efforts on empowering their employees through new technologies.

How do SMEs understand digital transformation?

9 out of 10 companies consider that the pandemic made SMEs more digital. The use of technology is very present in their day-to-day, regardless of size: it is the foundation of the goods and services they offer for 33% of them, while for the remaining 45% it is present in their daily work.

SMEs in Colombia understand well the role that technology plays in their businesses, where the transformation not only focuses on remote work or next-generation computers but goes much further, in the integration of technological solutions to empower them to achieve more. This is why 3 out of 4 of the companies declared that they will continue with the acquisition and implementation of new technologies after the pandemic. The truth is that technology will play a decisive role in the reactivation process: 9 out of 10 SMEs consider that the adoption of new technologies is important and for 87% the automation of processes will also be essential.

In their path of digital transformation, SMEs consider having an advance between 50 and 70%, with the largest being those that consider having the greatest advance. And although 66% of SMEs say they feel prepared to adopt new technologies, their knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in the process of consolidation: 43% of SMEs know Big Data & Analytics and As companies increase their size, knowledge is also greater. In terms of knowledge of artificial intelligence technologies, only 40% of SMEs say they have knowledge about them and, finally, 54% of SMEs are aware of data visualization technologies.

However, the truth is that one of the positive consequences brought about by this digital transformation driven by COVID, was a redoubled interest in acquiring knowledge: 7 out of 10 SMEs are training their employees in new technologies and 83% of the SMEs consider that the pandemic promoted training in technological skills. To achieve this, 95% had as their main source of acquisition of these skills online courses. And the process of transformation of the workforce will not stop: for 73% digital skills will be the priority in the future.

In their path of digital transformation, SMEs consider having an advance between 50 and 70%, with the largest being those that consider having the greatest advance. And although 66% of SMEs say they feel prepared to adopt new technologies, their knowledge to take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in the process of consolidation: 43% of SMEs know Big Data & Analytics and As companies increase their size, knowledge is also greater. In terms of knowledge of artificial intelligence technologies, only 40% of SMEs say they have knowledge about them and, finally, 54% of SMEs are aware of data visualization technologies.

However, the truth is that one of the positive consequences brought about by this digital transformation driven by COVID, was a redoubled interest in acquiring knowledge: 7 out of 10 SMEs are training their employees in new technologies and 83% of the SMEs consider that the pandemic promoted training in technological skills. To achieve this, 95% had as their main source of acquisition of these skills online courses. And the process of transformation of the workforce will not stop: for 73% digital skills will be the priority in the future.

In this regard, and one of the main work focuses of Microsoft Colombia in this challenging situation, Jaime Galviz, General Manager of Microsoft Colombia notes that “for an inclusive economic reactivation and so that the country can take advantage of the opportunities of an economy every time more digital, it is essential to enhance the technological skills of the Colombian workforce, and very particularly that of SMEs, which are the engine of our economy and the livelihood of millions of Colombians. To ensure that opportunities leave no one behind, Microsoft is committed to helping build the capabilities of the 21st century by offering free training programs from our Linkedin Learning, Microsoft Learn, and GitHub Lab platforms, through our training programs with SENA, and thanks to the alliances we have developed with the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and Fenalco. It is a priority for Microsoft to contribute to generating more opportunities for SMEs to be more resilient, more competitive and to be the engines of inclusive economic recovery ”.

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