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SMEs And The Challenge Of Digitalization

Different production sectors and territories that do not proceed at the same speed are just some of the difficulties encountered by SMEs. They want and must win the challenge of digitization.

SMEs characterized by solid skills and potential in the digital field (digital capability) is almost 15 thousand, corresponding to 9.1% of national small and medium-sized enterprises, and mainly located in Treviso, Milan, and Rimini provinces. On the other hand, the study highlighted a different picture in Southern and among micro-enterprises where there is still some delay.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on a global scale are leading to significant changes in economic paradigms and substantial changes in business habits. Therefore, a constant increase in digitization processes appears inevitable, due not only to the solutions that companies have had to adapt to keep up (e.g., increase in e-commerce, smart working, online meetings …) but also to changes in behavior and in the needs of consumers. The digital transition, therefore, has become one of the main objectives of the Union, which has allocated a large part of the community resources of the Next Generation to what is increasingly becoming one of the keys to the recovery plans.

In the new post-Covid economic scenario, the most digitized companies will therefore have a significant advantage in terms of optimizing resources and increasing performance, as it is easy to understand from the data relating to the level of digitization in the last fifteen years of companies compared to those of other European countries. The difference in productivity and growth that has characterized the Italian production system from 1995 to today appears to be closely correlated with a slower adoption of digital technologies, with 0.1% per year compared to 1.1% in Germany and 1.4% in the United States against an IT capital growth of 1.5X against multiples of 4X in Germany and 4.6X in the United States.

Digital Growth And Skills Index

The Growth Index (growth index) developed by Cerved is a synthetic score that measures the propensity for growth of companies from a perspective. The growth index consists of four different components whose integration gives a complete and multidimensional overview of the growth prospects of companies:

  • Organization and performance
  • Potential of the sector
  • The dynamism of the territory
  • Digital capability of the company

This last point, in particular, by integrating official information on innovative companies and proprietary scores powered by big data and machine learning technologies, offers a measure of the degree of innovation, digital culture, and positioning on the web and social media for all companies, representing the following scenario:

  • 14,506 SMEs (9.1%) have a high propensity for digitization
  • 32,182 SMEs (20.3%) with a moderate propensity for digitalization
  • 112,178 (70.6%) show low levels of digitization

Digitization And Production Chains

As regards the distribution between the various production chains, in absolute terms, chemicals and mechanics have the most significant number of digitized SMEs (3,330), followed by those ICT (2,311) and food and catering (1,833). In percentage terms, however, the highest share of SMEs with a high digital propensity (31.6 of the total) is found in the ICT supply chain. Among the less expected results, it is interesting to highlight the high incidence of companies with high digital capability in the furniture and furnishings supply chain (18.7%) and the personal system (11.1%). At the lowest levels, on the other hand, the construction (5.7%) and transport (5.0%) sectors.


This significant difference between SMEs and the different approaches to digital innovation leads us to think that there cannot be a single programmatic approach capable of satisfying the needs of all companies but that it is necessary to take actions that take into account the diversity of the system. Production from which a clear picture emerges. While many SMEs have a high degree of skills and propensity for digital innovation, for example, in machine learning and artificial intelligence, most of them (over 70%) are still unprepared for the transition. Digital. Therefore, the latter must be accompanied on this path through training initiatives and digital culture.

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