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How digital are small and medium-sized businesses? How are businesses meeting the strategic challenges in the medium and long term?

Datwyler has addressed these questions in a study, for which Techconsult, the market research institute, surveyed 200 executives from companies in both the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) and China mainland. They came from the most diverse sectors and represented small and medium-sized businesses of all sizes.

The IT infrastructure is the crucial foundation

In all the countries surveyed, the respondents were aware that successful digitisation can only come about with a sustainable IT infrastructure. Around 83 percent of respondents in the DACH region considered this crucial or important. In China the figure was almost 98% percent.

There was a difference in the IT infrastructure foundation from which the respondents launched their digitisation projects. In the DACH region, the classic data centre was the most widespread model (used by 39 percent), cloud or hybrid models lagged a certain distance behind. Cloud solutions, found mainly in larger medium-sized companies here, were more widespread in China – where 59 percent relied on Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service.

Small and medium-sized companies want to actively shape digitisation

The companies surveyed were in the midst of the digitisation process and wanted to play an active role in shaping it. On average one third (33 percent) of businesses in the DACH region were in the process of implementing digitisation projects, in China the figure was 37 percent. In the DACH region digitisation was an integral part of the business strategy for a further 44 percent, in China this was given as 45 percent.

Business models are strategically changed

The introduction of these projects is leading to significant change, something which affects the business model as well.

In the DACH region, this was true of rather more than half the companies. In China, the willingness to transform was even greater: for 80 percent of the businesses digitisation meant strategic changes to the business model.

For both regions the figures send out a clear message and herald a massive shift.

Small and medium-sized companies are spending a lot of money 

The level of investment is high in both markets: 81 percent of respondents in the DACH region and 99 percent in China wanted to invest in their IT infrastructure during the coming 12 months.

Whereas Chinese respondents placed an emphasis on data centres (64 percent), followed by IaaS (56 percent), cloud investment in the DACH region (54 percent) was slightly above that in data centres (53 percent). There is obviously investment in both models, and no consolidation is occurring, so the IT infrastructure will become even more multilayered.

Businesses are facing diverse challenges

Digitisation projects are more demanding than other projects. Contrary to the old cliché, cost was not the first thing mentioned by respondents. In the DACH region the continuous increase in the flood of data posed the greatest challenge for half the companies, in China growing customer requirements topped the list. Increasing competitive pressure is also driving and challenging the companies. For if competitors transform faster and more successfully they can take business away.

These challenges can best be overcome together with a reliable partner. In China and the DACH region, businesses liked to rely on experienced external IT solution providers. They profit from the latter’s know-how in the joint design of successful projects.

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