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Unleashing Singapore SMEs from burdensome admin could unlock over SGD8.7bn in lost productivity

Sage survey Study shows productive business time lost to administrative tasks in Singapore far higher than global average

Singapore – 18 January 2018 - Sage, a market leader in cloud accounting software today unveils an economic report highlighting that the world’s business builders currently spend an average of 120 working-days per year on administrative tasks, accounting for around 5% of the total manpower for the average Small & Medium Businesses.

In Singapore, local SMEs surveyed spend 168 working days on these tasks, which costs them SGD 160,000 a year, far higher than the average of SGD 80,000 spent by SMEs globally.

The markets surveyed include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and US. Sage has over 3 million customers – small and medium sized enterprises in 23 countries, including the surveyed regions.

'Sweating the Small Stuff: the impact of the bureaucracy burden', researched over 3,000 business builders globally, with over 250 of them based in Singapore, and found that complying with administrative and regulatory requirements has a significant impact, both in terms of manpower that must be devoted to the tasks and actual cost to the bottom line.

Based on data from the report, Sage has also launched a real-time ‘Cost of Lost Productivity’ tracker, to help businesses better visualize the impact of administrative burdens on their bottom line. Undertaken by Plum Consulting, the research shows that an increase in productivity of as little as 5% in Singapore could lead to an increase in GDP of SGD8.7 billion. This could be partially achieved through the reduction of time spent on business administration.

Across all the different types of Small & Medium Businesses, accounting is the biggest administrative task. Invoicing activities, including both invoice generation and processing of invoices received, also represent a substantial proportion of total administrative tasks. Together, these three tasks make up around 41%, 46% and 51% of all administrative activities for medium-sized, small and micro firms respectively. They are also the three tasks that can be carried out much more efficiently using software.

Robin Chao, Vice-President and Managing Director, Sage Asia, said, “The amount of time spent on business admin is huge – over a third of the year! Imagine what our local business could achieve if they could invest even a part of this time in innovation, training or new product development. The impact could be massive, benefitting customers in the long run. Cloud-based software solutions can help cut back on and streamline administrative processes, enabling business builders to manage anything from people to money on-the-go. In the face of this fact, any hesitations that businesses have about adopting technology just fall away.”

Global snapshot: Small & Medium Businesses’ Contribution to Global Economy

Across the 11 countries analysed, Small & Medium Businesses account for at least 96% of total enterprise, so if lost time was given back to them, the impact on GDP would be appreciable

 Country  Percentage of time lost to administration Implied loss in productivity (USD) 
 UK  5.6% 53.9bn
South Africa 3.7% 0.6bn
France 7.7% 52.5bn
 Ireland 3.5% 2.6bn
Australia 4.9% 25.0bn
Brazil 6.5% 24.6bn
Canada 1.7% 14.1bn
Singapore 5.5% 7.58bn
Spain 10.5% 38.3bn
United States 4.9% 335.3bn
Germany 3.7% 33.7bn

Source: Sweating the Small Stuff: the impact of the bureaucracy burden

Chao added, “A significant opportunity has presented itself to us and we are calling on all business builders in Singapore, big and small, to take action towards either digitally automating or streamlining the administrative work that needs to be done. The Singapore government is forward-looking and has many initiatives in place to guide business through this transition into the digital age and companies should do their best to capitalize on these opportunities as well.”

Click here to view full report