2024: Challenges and opportunities for SME success

In recent decades, small and medium-sized enterprises have played an increasingly crucial role in the global economy, contributing significantly to job creation, economic growth and innovation. However, accessing international markets, adopting innovative practices, promoting sustainability and maintaining competitiveness remain critical challenges for many of these enterprises.

What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for SMEs that want to thrive in 2024?

2024 is shaping up to be a particularly challenging year, and the Geoeconomic Observatory Report sponsored by ISPI and INTESA SANPAOLO entitled “THE WORLD 2024 – the great fragmentation” offers an analytical picture of the geopolitical and economic dynamics that will shape the global marketplace.

(fonte: ISPI)

The report highlights that the world is going through a period of profound transformation, with the economic crisis and geopolitical tensions fueling divisions and conflicts. New regional powers are emerging, while traditional global players, such as the United States and the European Union, face internal and external challenges that undermine their influence.

In the current context, there is an increase in economic protectionism, nationalism and trade tensions among major powers. Geopolitical dynamics are increasingly influenced by local interests, with growing competition for resources, markets and influence.

In this situation of great change, technology and innovation are key factors in shaping the new world order. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, are revolutionizing crucial areas of the economy and geopolitics, while the challenges of cybersecurity and privacy are becoming more pressing.

The changes are thus accelerating and global: in 2024, more than half the world will go to the polls to decide its future. In fact, some 4 billion individuals are preparing to vote and thus influence the political fate, both at the national and community levels, of 76 nations. These include eight of the world’s 10 most populous countries, such as Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.

With a rapidly changing geopolitical environment and a host of external factors at play, it is essential for Small and Medium Enterprises to adopt resilient and innovative strategies to successfully navigate through this period of uncertainty. For them, this can be the year of transformation and evolution, using change as a lever for continued progress and development. Therefore, it becomes critical to establish strategic goals and plans that serve as a guide to provide a clear sense of direction through the challenges and opportunities for SMEs that this year is preparing.

4 opportunities (and 4 challenges) for SMEs to thrive on a global scale

So, what are the guiding issues to be addressed regarding the challenges and opportunities for Italian SMEs interested in growing and monetizing their value on an international scale?

  1. Internationalization strategies
  2. Innovation
  3. Sustainability and responsibility to the future
  4. Competitiveness to keep up with the times

Internationalization to expand its borders

Internationalization projects as challenges and opportunities for SMEs. Why? Because it is true that internationalization offers SMEs the opportunity to access new markets, diversify risks and increase growth. However, entering international markets requires strategic planning and a thorough understanding of the difficulties and prospects.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Market analysis: Conduct a rigorous market analysis to assess demand, competition, local regulations, and other crucial factors in order to understand the trends, dynamics, and SWOT points of a particular geographic area or sector.
  • Market selection: Identify target markets based on compatibility with products or services offered, growth opportunities, and available resources.
  • Access to new markets and international partnerships: Through partnerships with local companies or international distributors, companies can reach new customers and increase their presence in foreign markets.

Thanks to the two analytical tools proposed by Roncucci&Partners, you can assess the degree of internationalization of your company with E-READY™ and accurately identify the most interesting countries for the development of your business abroad with GTO™, which takes into account the challenges and opportunities for SMEs, as well as risks and accessibility, growth trends and market demand with reference to the specific product.

Innovation for driving change

Innovation is critical to the growth and competitiveness of SMEs. However, limited resources can often hinder innovative efforts. Here are 3 strategies to address the challenges and opportunities for SMEs to embrace innovation and promote change:

  • Culture of innovation: Create an environment that encourages creative thinking, experimentation and calculated risk-taking.
  • Collaboration: Partnerships with universities, research institutes and other companies can foster the exchange of knowledge and resources to spur innovation.
  • Technology investment: Adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and immersive technologies (augmented reality (AR – 3D), mixed reality (MR), virtual reality (VR), digital twins…) can improve operational efficiency and create new business opportunities.

Here, too, Roncucci&Partners has developed an ad hoc service: with I-RATE™ it is possible to measure a company’s rate of innovation in order to be more competitive and to understand precisely on which areas to focus its efforts, thus optimizing the use of resources and investments.

Sustainability and responsibility to the future

Sustainability is now an imperative for companies of all sizes, not only to preserve the environment, but also to meet the expectations of consumers, investors and stakeholders, and can be integrated into the business model of companies in:

  • Reducing environmental impact: Adopting eco-friendly practices, reducing the use of natural resources, pollution and carbon emissions.
  • Social responsibility: Promoting employee diversity, inclusion and well-being, and supporting local communities through social initiatives.
  • Transparency and reporting: Openly communicating sustainability efforts and providing clear information on achievements.

Roncucci&Partners has developed an assessment tool to obtain an initial view of corporate sustainability. Strengths and areas for improvement are to be mapped against ESG parameters. This mapping will enable the development of a plan of action consistent with an overall strategy for the direction of the company in the coming years.

Competitiveness to stay on the cutting edge

Competitiveness is essential to meet the challenges and opportunities for SMEs that want to not only survive, but more importantly thrive in an increasingly global and dynamic business environment.

“Made in Italy” is a symbol of excellence and prestige in the world, but it must also be supported by reasoned choices on the part of businesses and particularly on the previously addressed topics of Internationalization, Innovation, Technology and Sustainability Processes.

These are the key pillars for SME success in the global business landscape, and investing in these areas can help SMEs broaden their horizons, drive change, take leadership in addressing environmental challenges, and maintain a lasting competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In conclusion, with proper strategic planning and an ongoing commitment to excellence, Italian SMEs can truly realize their full potential and thrive on an international scale. Therefore, 2024 will be a year full of challenges and opportunities for Italian SMEs, to be welcomed with proper preparation

Agnes Randriamaitso


At Roncucci&Partners we help companies develop themselves and their business, embrace change and evolve to thrive in a world that is increasingly complicated, insidious and requires great expertise. We do this by applying punctual methods and rigorous strategies, the result of many years of experience and the richness of the numerous success stories we have conducted all over the world. Passion and method are indeed our guides to enhance the present and build the future.

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