How much are your competitors spending on IT?

The probable reason to ask this question is that you want to understand what your own organisation should be spending on IT. If you have a successful competitor, or indeed know of a business in a related industry, such as a supplier or customer that you aspire to be like, then understanding what they do and how they do it is a great starting point to be like them.

Of course, there are a number of reasons why businesses are successful – it might be the marketing, the product, the quality, the service (and indeed all of these) that contribute to their position. You may argue that the IT that a particular business uses might not even be obvious or game-changing – such as a great website or a fully integrated business system. It might just be that their use of IT allows them to concentrate on the things that make them good. For instance, proper and efficient use of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can lead to very efficient marketing campaigns where the whole marketing process is planned, executed, managed and adjusted to get great results.

Making as many transactions as possible electronically, not necessarily by complex system integration, but perhaps by email can lead to efficiencies in accounts. For example, less data entry from paper bills and less time spent stuffing invoices into envelopes – and a greater concentration on keeping debtor days low or negotiating better deals with suppliers.

Having a number of different systems that don’t integrate very well, if at all, can also impact on the efficiency of a business – it takes time to input the same data into many systems. Fewer software systems (by extending the use of present functionality in what you have) or a single integrated business system such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can reduce input and save money not only in the effort required to use it, but also potentially reducing the different software packages and hardware and related maintenance costs.

In summary, you don’t need shiny new technologies and whizzy websites to be as good as your competitors – it may just be making proper use of modern, proven software that is in general everyday use.

Your spend is defined by multiple factors

Of course, it rather depends on your attitude to IT, what condition your current infrastructure is in, and what your plans are for the future.

We’ll deal with the first element in terms of your attitude to IT – do you see it as an inconvenient necessity, core to the way you do business or full of possibilities that can differentiate your business from your competitors?

A broad classification for attitude is as follows – and, by the way, we offer no judgement as to which is right for you or your business.

What’s your attitude to IT?

Attitude/Orientation Behaviour Spend
Bleeding edge Very early adoption of typically unproven technologies that may offer competitive advantage if successful but accept the risk of failure (and consequent cost). A high percentage above the average.
Leading edge Takes the very latest proven technologies at the point they become mainstream. A moderate percentage above the average.
Me too Uses proven technologies which are in widespread use. At around the average.
Laggard Often reluctantly adopts technologies due to an identified need or withdrawal of previous technologies Below the average
Super laggard Only uses IT as a last resort Significantly below the average.

This is not necessarily a constant state – a company may decide to renew its business systems to meet new challenges, as a strategy for growth, or even a particular one-off project – and this may result in the percentage of turnover being spent on IT for a period indicating a ‘Leading Edge’ mentality. However, in subsequent periods it may demonstrate ‘Me too’ or even ‘Laggard’ as the investment, having been made, pays back with lower on-going costs.

IT spend as a percentage of turnover

Once you know what your attitude to IT is you can then benchmark your spend against industry in general.

Sometimes it is possible to find published figures for particular sectors – for instance, banking and finance have industry benchmarks (whose spend is way above manufacturing and service businesses). Manufacturing and Service companies may find it difficult to obtain benchmark spending data for their particular sector as direct competitors do not publish such information freely, unless as part of industry association studies. In the event such information is not available then you will have to rely on the figures for ‘general’ business, or you could always ask the direct question of the competitor or business you aspire to.

In the absence of easily available data we can look to research from dedicated consultancies such as Gartner, which found that the average spend their comparison group was 3.75% of turnover. For technology-intensive industries such as financial services and software services, the ratio can be as high as 6% or more in today’s security conscious environment. CIO Magazine carried out a survey which noted that the smallest enterprises spent more as a percentage of turnover than medium and large enterprises.

Recently, there has been an increase in spending on IT across the world. This is often unplanned and due to emergency situations, such as in response to disasters, cyber-attacks or security breaches. New threats have developed which require countermeasures which are difficult to plan for given the emergence of new forms of cyber criminality by the day. It is certainly worth increasing your IT spend to proactively and preemptively counter these evolving threats.

It’s all relative…

Of course your stance towards IT will very much depend upon the market you operate in – if all your competitors are ‘Laggard’ and spend a very small percentage of their turnover on IT, it may be possible to be perceived as ‘Bleeding Edge’ by your marketplace by only spending a few percentage points more of your turnover on IT than your competitors. You may still be perceived generally as ‘Laggard’ but who are you competing against?

For instance – you may be in a market where there is a ‘Best of Breed’ application that is the de-facto way of doing business. By electing to choose another application such as ERP you may be able to differentiate yourself by being able to use different business processes.

BOB versus ERP

BOB – Best of Breed software is typically designed for a particular industry, and for a particular subset of processes. It may be estimating or order processing and it will likely have standard interfaces to a more general package for finance (Sage, for instance).

ERP – Enterprise Resources Planning is software that is designed to be extremely flexible and can, by the setting of certain parameters, be made to work in a different manner for many different organisations (and sometimes within organisations). For example, an order system can have certain steps to satisfy a particular type of transaction. It is possible to gain templates for some industries to make the configuration process easier.

If you are at a juncture in your business development that is making you question your existing systems, then we are able to help you work through the complexities and contribute to you making a decision that is right for your business – we have many years of experience at Neuways of implementing and managing ERP and BOB systems for our customers.

How much?!

Depending on your attitude and how much you spend right now, you can now compare your business to a typical company and their spend from the different IT attitude classifications.

Attitude/Orientation Percentage of Turnover As little as As much as
Bleeding edge 6% plus £600,000 When you run out of money
Leading edge 3.5 to 6% £350,000 £600,000
Me too 2 to 3.5% £200,000 £350,000
Laggard 0.5 to 2% £50,000 £200,000
Super laggard Less than 0.5% Connectivity…. £50,000

I don’t appear to be spending as much as these benchmarks…

If the indicated amount is beyond what you spend right now then you should take comfort that you are either very efficient with your use of IT – and you are very good at what you do, or that by making investments in line with your competitors you can match them or, by spending a slightly greater percentage, you can beat them.

I am spending way too much!

If you are spending beyond these indices yet are still not a market leader, or even competitive, then your IT needs close examination, as does the way it is run. There are proven and relatively quick, ways of reducing cost – renegotiating your contracts, outsourcing some or all of your support, or replacing inefficient systems which better fit for purpose business software.

With our help, your IT can transform your business and drive growth

Your outlook will impact on your business, and where you can make improvements, develop your working practices, and bring growth to your company.

The only extra spend you might need to make is on a simple IT Strategy Review, in order to identify areas where you can become more efficient and more productive, where your existing IT systems can be leveraged to provide as yet untapped benefits. That may be all you want to spend, and that’s fine. There is often potential underexploited potential in everyone’s existing infrastructure that can be accessed simply by better informing and training your people.

You might need a complete infrastructure refresh. If you’re lagging behind competitors and still spending lots on your IT, you’ll probably find you can invest to reduce your ongoing costs and boost productivity.

What is crucial to remember is that IT can benefit your business. In today’s business landscape, IT cannot be avoided – the challenge is making it work for your business, in harmony with your people and your business processes. At Neuways, our consultants and analysts take the time to get to know your people, your systems and your business aspirations, so we can put together bespoke packages of solutions and services that are tailored to your business.