The 2007 small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) survey is currently in its first phase, which includes development of the questionnaire and call-centre training.
The survey is conducted by SME Insight, a company formed from
four separate entities. World Wide Worx which performs the research
component of the survey, Netsurit which provides the call centre
and database service, Coolcumba the marketing partner, and Fizz
Management which is responsible for marketing and events
Principal SME survey researcher Arthur Goldstuck explains that the survey is currently in the final stages of questionnaire development. Time has been spent on determining the hypothesis, what the survey aims to prove, and how that can be achieved.
Goldstuck says that after the questionnaire has been compiled there is a piloting stage, where a few hundred SMEs will be surveyed to identify any potential problem areas. These may include the structure of the questions and how they are asked, and will give an idea of what information respondents are willing to divulge.
Surveying will start from the beginning of April, notes
Goldstuck, adding that the field work phase, comprising data
gathering, should be completed by the end of June.
Netsurit has a database that includes about 70 000 SMEs, and for the survey a random sample is taken from this database. Netsurit's call centre employees are trained to conduct the survey, which is done by way of telephonic interviews. A weekly roundup of data is sent to World Wide Worx and it is able to evaluate how respondents are reacting to the questions.
"Halfway through the survey, there is an interim analysis and an
interim report is compiled for internal use; sponsors and partners
have access to it, for information only. However, at this point,
further questions can be added if required," says Goldstuck.
September will see the last stage of the survey, which includes drawing up the final report, receiving feedback and an analysis of the survey's findings. Goldstuck notes that once the survey has been completed, SME Insight will embark on a countrywide roadshow to report on the findings and facilitate a direct dialogue with SME decision-makers. He comments that the media plays an important role in disseminating the information to the public and that an event is coordinated to release the survey's headline findings. Respondents can access the information on the company's website or through a quarterly newsletter.
This year's survey aims to unravel information about the about the relationship between competitiveness and the use of a wide range of resources. These include information technology, human resources and financial services, as well as business, marketing and sales and government services. The central hypothesis is that it should be possible to differentiate competitive businesses from the uncompetitive based on the type of resources they use.
However, Goldstuck notes that over the wide range of respondents interviewed, regular issues emerge that may diverge from the core research question. These issues will also inform the survey conclusions.
Goldstuck comments that the most enduring trend discovered in past surveys is the importance among SMEs of access to skills as a resource and the importance of previous work experience as a source of skills. He notes that the skills issue is a defining characteristic of business in South Africa, but is not as crucial in developed countries. Another notable issue over the years has been the importance access to finance, which is a global issue for SMEs.
The 2007 SME survey is sponsored by Standard Bank and Fujitsu Siemens Computers. Standard Bank director of business support (business and private banking) Melt van der Spuy says that the SME market is the engine room of the economy and the survey provides information about this sector, allowing the bank to cater for its specific needs. He adds that internally there is a need for quality data about trends and that changes in findings will illuminate new issues that emerge in the market.
Danny de Beer of Fujitsu Siemens notes that the SME market is very important to the company as it has about 3 000 SME resellers nationwide. These SMEs have a potential 64 000 customers and Fujitsu Siemens would like to identify what their needs are in terms of products, services and training.