Digital transformation can provide tangible benefits for SMBs, but most haven’t unlocked its full potential. The latest study released yesterday, February 15  from IDC and commissioned by SAP found that four out of five SMBs worldwide see real benefits. However, less than 7 percent of SMBs have moved beyond integration to real-time insights.

The benefits found in digital transformation include increased sales, decreased costs, easier access to information and improved customer service and productivity. By not getting real-time insights, SMBs miss out on process and workflow optimization, which can hamper productivity and dampen the overall customer experience.

“This study shows that smaller companies are being proactive and strategic in how they invest in digital technologies. These investments, many of which have minimal requirements in terms of capital investments and IT staff, enable unprecedented opportunities for scale and efficiency by providing access to capabilities that were once out of reach for smaller companies,” said Barry Padgett, president of the SMB team, SAP, in a press release.

The survey also found that nearly 44 percent of SMBs are investing in technology to support current processes. This represents a practical, tactical approach to digital transformation. SMBs have also found that using the cloud to implement new technology has made this easier, as two in five respondents stated that the rollout of their first solution was easier than expected or required no extra effort. Additionally, 73 percent of those that have adopted new technology report that their expectations for the investments have been met or exceeded.

SMBs are choosing collaborative software, customer relationship management programs and e-commerce applications as their first entry points into digital transformation. One-third of these SMBs prefer to deploy these in the cloud.

“The challenge is in connecting different technology areas for maximum impact. Firms that do that tend to grow faster and be more successful in an increasingly competitive environment,” said Ray Boggs, vice president, small and medium business research, IDC, in a press release.

To view more results of the survey in infographic form, visit the SAP News Center.