Equipping Europe for success: Why the tools of the past won’t build the SMEs of the future

By Thomas Dubois

For the millions of people working in small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region, having the right tech tools is essential for getting the job done and keeping customers satisfied.

However, when we asked SME employees about the IT tools that they use in their jobs, the results were revealing. More than a third (37%) [1] of SME employees in the region said that they have better IT at home than at work – while over a quarter (28%) [2] think their company’s IT is outdated. Of these, five to 10 year old desktop computers and laptops (58%) [3], a lack of tablets or smartphones (57%) and operating systems more than five years old (51%) were listed as the top culprits.


Small businesses using outdated technology risk more than just being unable to deliver services to customers. They face being left behind. In fact, research shows that there’s a big gap in performance between SMEs that embrace new technology and those who don’t. A study by Boston Consulting Group found small businesses that are leaders in technology adoption perform significantly better than their peers; growing revenues 15% faster and creating jobs twice as quickly as those with lower levels of technology adoption.

Investing in new tools can be a challenge for SMEs, many of whom have only just started seeing signs of recovery after the economic crisis. But the tools and services available to businesses have never been more powerful or accessible. The range of affordable, flexible devices, backed by low investment cloud-based services, mean that small businesses can have the latest kit that was once out of reach; tailored to their needs in an impactful and cost-effective way.

Swiss bank Glarner Kantonalbank had already upgraded to a modern operating system for its 180 staff. However, as a business that provided many location-dependent services to its customers, a standardized approach was needed to help save money in the future. By switching to tablet-laptop hybrid (2-in-1) devices, the bank introduced a ‘one device – one employee’ rule, avoiding using separate devices like desktops, notebooks and tablets. The new hardware’s tablet mode with touch interfaces impressed customers during sales presentations, and keyboard and mouse integration meant employees could easily get work done while in the office, without switching between tools. As well as increasing employee satisfaction and productivity, the bank reduced costs by lowering the administrative burden IT staff previously faced.


For SME owners not in a position to invest in new hardware, introducing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy can help bring modern tools into their business without a big capital investment. Two fifths (42%) [4] of SMEs are already taking advantage, with laptops (53%) [5] and smartphones (52%) and tablets (26%) the most popular devices brought from home. Embracing BYOD can bring benefits – the technology that workers use at home is often up to the latest specifications, and they’ll feel more comfortable using kit that they already know, eliminating any learning curve. Underpinned by cloud services, such as Office 365, that support the anytime, anywhere work capabilities that modern businesses need to thrive; helping SMEs become more agile and letting workers get more done, wherever they are.

While integrating these devices into company systems can present challenges with data security, using tools such as Windows Intune let SME leaders manage them centrally, protecting against potential breaches. It also simplifies the process, reducing the amount of time that SMEs – many of whom have little or no permanent IT support – spend on helping workers use their devices on company networks.

With European SME Week here, this is the time for leaders of small businesses to think critically about equipping their businesses for success.


  1. Q12: Thinking about the information technology you personally use: In your opinion, do you have better information technology (e.g. software, hardware such as laptops, PCs, tablets, smartphones etc.) at home or at work?
  2. Q19 Thinking now about how your business uses information technology, to what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: My Company uses outdated information technology.
  3. Q20 You indicated that you believe your company uses outdated information technology. With this in mind, which, if any of the following statements apply to your company?
  4. Q.30 Does your company have a policy that lets you bring your own devices (such as laptops, tablets, PCs or mobile phones) to work and integrate theses with company systems?
  5. Q31: Which of the following personal devices (such as laptops, tablets, PCs or mobile phones) do you bring to and use at work? (Laptop, Tablet).

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