Recent studies have shown that as many as 65% of small and medium sized businesses are losing time and money due to a failure to adopt technology, and use it to its full potential.
Although the large majority of SMEs do use the internet for business purposes, including online banking and emailing customers, almost a quarter of owners have admitted to not possessing the basic digital skills and knowledge beyond this. This is despite a proven correlation between digital skills and a high company turnover.
- 59% of SMEs waste up to 10 hours a week on administration tasks, taking time from activity that could increase revenue and growth.
- 65% of SMEs admitted to using outdated Microsoft Office technology, decreasing productivity by not taking advantage of latest benefits.
- Giving SMEs back two hours each week could boost the UK economy by almost £9bn.
Over half of these businesses have websites (64%), but of those companies who do not have businesses, a shocking 77% believed it wasn’t necessary. This was either due to a lack of awareness of the prevalence of technology, or other preventive factors such as a belief that setting up a website would be expensive or time-consuming.
Websites were found to be least common in the primary, transport, accommodation and food service sectors.
An ‘attitudinal barrier’ was found to be the biggest obstacle to SMEs forming and developing an online presence, caused by a lack of awareness about the benefits and opportunities available. The ‘barrier’ is especially evident in attitudes towards social media with a relatively small 36% currently on a social media platform. However, those that do use these channels have said that they have been beneficial in promoting their goods and services, as well as boosting direct sales.
Owners of small and medium businesses often hesitate to roll out new technologies because they lack the expertise and staff to properly manage them, but IT is universally understood to be a great enabler for businesses, regardless of size or sector. Technology allows you to do everything from organising, promoting, understanding and expanding your business on an unforeseen level, facilitating worker mobility and increasing your client and market reach many times over. In fact, SMEs who embrace technology have been found to grow two to three times faster.
This trend is true for the whole of Europe, which includes the 20 million SMEs that are the backbone of the EU economy. Regardless of their home country, entrepreneurs who were early technology adopters increased their annual revenues 15% faster than their competitors. Moreover, they managed to create jobs twice as fast as other small businesses.
It’s essential for Europe’s SMEs to stay ahead of the game when it comes to digital skills, for the sake of the recovering economy, and also to protect the benefits of this (and the next) wave of technology adoption.
What can you do?
So what can you do to ensure your small business is clued up on your digital potential? There are many free online courses in digital learning, which offer a great place to start. We’ve included some of our favourites below.
For more information on digital skills for business, take a look at this government resource.