2020 has been a whirlwind of a year. Just ten months ago, we’d barely heard of COVID-19. Since then, the pandemic continues to fill the front pages and barely a conversation goes by without mention of the extraordinary levels of disruption.
But for all its disruption and terrible human consequences, the public health crisis has inadvertently accelerated the adoption of new technology across UK SMEs. In the process, this has presented small businesses with a prime opportunity to tackle longstanding tech-adoption problems and the associated productivity crisis, once and for all.
Be the Business, a not for profit organisation that helps improve the performance of small businesses, working in partnership with McKinsey & Company, surveyed 1,500 SMEs and 35 major tech firms across the UK as part of its latest research report, The UK’s Technology Moment. It aimed to gauge the experience and performance of adopting technology in different sizes and sectors of business.
In doing so, Be the Business has outlined major adoption barriers facing small businesses. It’s also highlighted solutions, to help you overcome any tech-adoption challenges and enhance productivity for sustained success in the next year and beyond.
To give you every chance of overcoming your own barriers, I’d strongly recommend reading the constructive insights uncovered in the full report. But to get you started, I’ve highlighted some of the report’s key findings along with useful SME resources to help you seize the tech-adoption moment.
Business in a pre-pandemic world
Before diving into the crux of the findings, it’s important to understand the business landscape prior to the pandemic. Or more specifically, the UK’s underperformance compared to other developed countries in terms of technology adoption.
The challenge in the UK is particularly acute among SMEs. Smaller businesses are less likely to adopt technology than larger UK firms, and they’re also far less probable than smaller firms in other countries across Europe.
For example, while 62% of large UK firms and 68% of German large firms use CRMs, the gap is much larger among small businesses – with just 26% to 40% using CRMs. The UK has had a long-recognised productivity gap, and tech adoption is one of the key causes.
But it’s also one of the key opportunities to close the gap.
Barriers facing SMEs
Part and parcel of this inability, or reluctance, to embrace new technology can be apportioned to the many barriers facing SMEs. In the report, Be the Business outlines the problems and miscellaneous reasons why previous attempts at adopting technology have failed.
One of the major barriers reported was that products are largely built for enterprises, not small businesses. Ultimately, products aren’t simple enough and are laden with technical jargon. Small business leaders look for tech providers whose products address their needs and explain the benefits in an easy, jargon-free way.
Perception is another, with adoption appearing too costly and complicated for many SMEs. In fact, two-thirds of small businesses don’t measure the quantitative impact of a technology on their business and many more are still scarred by solutions that failed to deliver. This barrier is amplified by the belief that adopting technology means altering many business processes.
Perhaps the most pressing problem facing small business is that of risk. Some 41% of SMEs say switching could disrupt their business. And in addition to the complexity, stress and disruption of migration, there is also the specific fear of data loss. Overall, many feel powerless and locked in with large complex systems and are unwilling to risk losing control of their data.
Adopting new technology can feel daunting and like a step into the unknown for any business owner. In SMEs the responsibility of introducing the necessary skills and support to implement a new system often falls on the shoulders of leaders – hence why another barrier is the lack of expertise and execution support.
Lastly, SMEs are more than twice as likely to fail at adoption if employees are resistant. Extracting maximum value from a solution is reliant on end users (employees) using it consistently and correctly. Understanding user pain points, developing solutions that address them and providing support is essential to this, which can again be a burden for business owners.
Seize the technology adoption moment!
Fortunately, the report also outlines the answers to overcoming these barriers. But reaching some of these solutions will require a unified effort between national and regional government, tech leaders and small businesses alike, which is the overarching mission of the advisory boards and taskforces of Be the Business.
In the meantime, there are no end of resources at your disposal to help your small business seize the technology adoption moment. Such as this step-by-step guide to adoption – covering everything from initial objectives and sourcing the right technology, to justifying budgets, buying with confidence, bringing staff up to speed and ensuring a positive ROI.
And Cisco is getting in on the act too. Our resource centre is a one-stop-shop for all matters relating to SMEs, with adoption, networking, security and collaboration solutions. Combined with our dedicated small business community – where you can connect with like-minded peers and lean on our team of experts, with around-the-clock support.
Of course, we also understand finding the right technology, at the right price, is vital for your business. This is why we provide free trials and demos for nearly all of our services, so you can try before you buy and make sure our tech will help you reach your business goals.
That’s not to say technology adoption for small businesses won’t be without it’s challenges, but it’s imperative to seize the moment today, to avoid being left behind in tomorrow’s increasingly digital world.
COVID-19 has presented a prime opportunity to tackle longstanding tech-adoption problems and associated productivity crisis, once and for all.
So, look to the likes of Be the Business and Cisco and together we can build a brighter future for every SME.
For more information on how Cisco is empowering small business recovery click here