SAP Study: SMEs in APAC adapting to remote-first business environment

Swift action and quick pivot to business operations allowed small and midsize enterprises (SME) in the Asia Pacific region (APAC) to easily adjust to the remote and telecommuting setup.

In the study conducted by technology company SAP SE, 77% of the respondents said that they adjusted remote work arrangements for employees in response to COVID-19, as compared to respondents in Europe (75%) and the Americas (71%).

The SAP study titled “Digital Resilient, and Experience-driven: How Small and Midsize Organisations Can Prepare for the New Economy” highlights how SMEs in APAC are uniquely positioned to adapt and thrive in the dynamic and distributed post-COVID-19 business environment. Conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the study also delved into the priorities, challenges, and digital maturity of SMEs in the Americas, Europe, and APAC.

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Also, 61% of APAC SMEs surveyed created remote work set-ups for employees during this period, while 69% invested in IT and collaboration solutions to support remote access and/or online learning. The study found 10% of APAC SMEs reported that the pandemic has no impact on their ability to accommodate remote work and maintain employee productivity.

On top of supporting business continuity during this period, many APAC SMEs are also actively exploring new channels to get their products and services to customers (66%, vs 64% in the Americas and 59% in Europe) and developing new products and service offerings (46%, vs. 40% in the Americas and 49% in Europe).

Of the total 2,000, 832 respondents were from the following APAC markets: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea.


“SMEs across the region — like their counterparts around the world — have certain advantages over larger competitors in terms of agility and closeness to the customer,” said Edward Cone, Editorial Director of Thought Leadership and Technology Practice Lead at Oxford Economics. “Yet even before the pandemic, SMEs in APAC also faced meaningful challenges in keeping up the pace of digital transformation.”

It was revealed that COVID-19 has significantly impacted APAC SMEs’ ability to compete with larger companies within the same industry, with 45% of APAC SMEs reporting that the pandemic has had a significant effect on their operations and strategies in this area. COVID-19 has also affected the ability to operate at full capacity (45%), the ability of the supply chains to keep up with demands (40%), and the ability to keep existing customers (40%). Some respondents reported that they had to completely restructure business strategy and operations in these areas to mitigate the impact of the pandemic


Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, SMEs in the region reported being optimistic about their long-term prospects. Many APAC SMEs expect that over the next three years, their market share (62%), budget/revenue (76%), the number of full-time employees (59%), and profitability (78%) will increase somewhat or substantially.

Looking ahead to the next three years, APAC SMEs are prioritizing improving the customer experience (40%), growth (38%), and attracting new customers (28%).

APAC SMEs believe that the key to providing high-quality customer experience lies in high-quality products and/or services (70%), fast and convenient delivery (64%) and competitive pricing (62%), with the customer-service business function bearing the most responsibility for delivering those experiences (cited by 70% of APAC respondents). Upgrading analytics on customer data is viewed as a go-to strategy for improving customer experience: 28% already have done this across the organization, and 52% have started to.

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