Call to upgrade from 'shoebox' accounting

Call to upgrade from 'shoebox' accounting

The “if it ain't broke don't fix it'” mindset is a key barrier to Australia's small businesses adopting new technology, a survey has found.

There are 2.4 million small businesses in Australia and more than half are sole traders, with the pandemic prompting tens of thousands of people to start their own business.

Yet only one-in-five small businesses see themselves as technology adopters and many “freeze” when faced with a decision about new tools, the survey by consultants Decision Design and technology firm Xero found.

Tracking customers with digital records, rather than manually or not at all, could be a simple, low-cost first step, Chris Harvey, behavioural analytics expert at Decision Design told AAP on Monday.

Digitising and automating accounting and bookkeeping could also save time, and strife with the tax office.

“Shoeboxes full of receipts might seem like a simple way to do things, until you have to make sense of them at tax time,” he said.

The survey quizzed more than 4200 in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The 1212 Australian respondents were at businesses with less than 50 workers.

“From an Australian perspective, we found the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' mindset is quite strong,” Mr Harvey said.

Small businesses that readily adopted new technology enjoyed on average 120 per cent higher revenue.

The survey also found more than double the productivity in firms that had updated processes, and workers were 27 per cent more likely to wake up excited about their work.

But some, and particularly sole traders, felt threatened and anxious when forced to understand and choose a technology.

Sole traders were 29 per cent less likely to agree they needed to change their technology in order to grow and 39 per cent more likely to feel confused when comparing technology options.

A free online tool has been developed by the federal government to help businesses of all sizes think about how to digitise their operations.

“This tool will help businesses understand what their digital footprint is and how it compares to that of their competitors,” Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said.

The assessment takes 10 minutes to complete and provides businesses with recommendations.

The Digital Ready Assessment Tool also links businesses to government grant programs.

Decision Design suggested businesses create a “decision matrix” of objectives that a new technology must satisfy and compare them to current options, as a way to discourage a reliance on familiar ways.

Narrowing and simplifying technology choices to minimise “decision paralysis” could also work.

“Ultimately, something will be better than nothing,” Mr Harvey said.

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