Rod posted about their report into productivity gains for the New Zealand SME community. As Rod pointed out – this is an extremely important issues given that;

Small Business contributes $50b to New Zealand’s GDP!  We believe online technology is the key to improving productivity in the sector. The numbers are simply staggering. Minor productivity improvements can grow GDP by $500m or more.

The Xero report made several recommendations to Government, including;

  1. Educating SMEs on the benefits of being online in all agency communications.
  2. Promote as the business to government website.
  3. Allow high quality New Zealand solution providers to be certified and profiled on
  4. Encourage the Small Business Advisory Group to play a larger role in the design of the portal so it meets the needs of small businesses on an ongoing basis.
  5. Look to expose key government information as web services so that application providers can integrate government activities into the workflow of their solutions. Individual government departments do not need sophisticated transaction websites. This work is incremental and can start immediately. (For example filing of GST returns as a web service.)
  6. Establish a single business identification number for all trading entities to facilitate commerce between New Zealand small businesses.
  7. Work with the private sector to take a global leadership position in Standard Business Reporting.
  8. Accelerate the Standard Business Reporting project, starting with an opt-in voluntary service.

Xero should be applauded for producing this – while it is partially fuelled by self interest it is also very much in the interests of the country at large.

As I commented on Rod’s post, I’ve long felt the best place for business advice is out of the hands of government and leveraging the peer relationships that SMEs have.

To this end I believe a business advisory site which is neutral and independent is preferable to the likes of and the other Government business sites. The fact is that a Government run site has to be sufficiently “high brow” as to limit the ability for robust, off the wall and challenging discourse.

Which is where the project I’ve been working on for around a year comes in. I wasn’t going to say anything until we’re actually live but Rod’s post upped the ante somewhat. In a matter of a few weeks NZ SMEs will have such a vehicle – we’re working hard to create it and hope the community will come and utilise the platform we’re building.

As we say in our business case – we’re here to help the ninety-six percenters, namely the 96% of businesses in New Zealand that fall into the SME category.

We’re a community site targeted at New Zealand small and medium sized enterprises. We aim to recreate the peer-to-peer conversations that currently occur around a barbeque or beer. Founded by SME owners we aim to fill a hole in the market.

I’ll post more about what we’re up to late next week. Until then – keep your eyes peeled and think about what value an open SME site could bring to your business.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • An industry led SME portal is a great idea, provided it augments rather than replicates existing services. Personally, I think is a great first port of call, especially for new businesses who must address compliance issues.

    Where the govt. site fails is in capturing real knowledge. But by building a community of SMEs online there is a clear opportunity to leverage valuable experience and advice that you will not receive from a govt. agency.

    We achieved this to a certain extent for the tech sector when we set up ION in 2002. Many people posted advice and shared knowledge at the outset. But contributors tend to comprise only about 5 to 10% of the community. Like Xero, their reasons for contributing can sometimes be self-serving and this must be acknowledged by community managers.

    The hard part is retaining attention in a crowded online marketplace and ensuring financial and intellectual sustainability.

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