Final call: UK SMBs need to embrace tech or stay behind

Andy Wilson at Dropbox UK explains that money, knowledge and time are the three main factors holding back small businesses from necessary investments in technology

From James Bond’s beginning, his gadgets have always been key to the suave secret agent’s most memorable moments. Although Bond is a powerful character by himself, his accessibility to a team of technology-wielding geniuses has constantly played a role in the character’s ability to live another day.

Similarly, for small businesses, integrating technology into the way they work is a lynchpin in the optimisation of what they do. Just like Bond, small and medium businesses (SMBs) need a digital strategy that can act as their own “Q” to help them survive their next mission.

New research from Dropbox and Enterprise Nation has revealed what the failure to embrace technology could mean for UK SMBs. The COVID-19 pandemic stimulated an unprecedented amount of digital transformation across all industries.

Our research only confirmed the impacts of this on business survival, finding that a huge 72.2% of businesses could not have survived the pandemic without technology. However, with many SMBs stuck using old processes, relying on legacy technology, how then do we make sure that digital optimisation is not just a luxury reserved for larger industries?

For us, understanding the barriers to tech adoption is key. In this piece, we’ll address the three main issues for small businesses: knowledge, money and time.  

Knowledge

One of the most significant disadvantages that SMBs face is a lack of knowledge about technology. The recent report showed that over a third (35%) of businesses said they did not have the right expert advice, whilst 30% said that they didn’t have the information they needed to adopt new tech.

Today, the market is saturated with a diverse range of tech tools, making it even harder for companies to know which ones would best suit their needs. Gaining the right expertise will allow SMBs to adopt technology in the right way and not just for the sake of digitisation.  

SMBs are also more likely to fail to keep up with the fast-paced business technology developments, that could enhance their tech knowledge even further. Only 34% of businesses with 1-10 employees said that they were very active at keeping up with technology trends, compared to 64% of larger businesses with 50-250 employees.

This highlights a glaring gap in understanding how emerging technology could benefit business processes and profit. SMBs need support to know what technology can do for them and how to create a long-term strategy for success.

Money

Cost is clearly a main concern for many businesses who are stuck trying to update their tech.  Lack of funds has been shown to hold back 41% of small businesses from reaping the benefits of tech tools. However, there is an ever-growing supply of affordable and free services for even the smallest businesses to take advantage of at any stage of their development. Many of the technology tools offer free basic tiers of usage that give teams the ability to try before they buy, or have an entry level option free of charge.

Businesses wanting to take the next step to change how they use technology should take the leap and test what the market can offer them. Companies like Enterprise Nation can help SMBs access everything from peer groups and free learning sessions free guides and templates for implementing tech.

Time

For all businesses the age-old aphorism, time is money, endures, but for SMBs time is everything. When it comes to technology, we know exactly how much money losing time costs. The study showed that if small businesses adopt better technologies, they could gain £8.1bn a year in saved time.

Technology has given businesses and consumers the ability to make menial tasks quicker, collaboration smoother and transparency more widespread. In fact, one of the perks of embracing technology is that you can make it work around your needs and not the other way around.

This is why it’s unsurprising that video conferencing (66%) and cloud storage (59%) were seen as the most important tech tools for keeping businesses going over the past 18 months. However, the report highlighted that some time-saving technologies such as e-signature, mobile document scanning, and project management tools are yet to be as widely adopted, despite their role in optimising processes.

Smaller businesses are usually the ones that have the least amount of time to waste and so exploring new digital tools is essential for businesses growth. Although the journey towards a more accessible digital world has begun, it’s a journey that will continue to be significant in helping all businesses, no matter their size, to thrive.


Andy Wilson is Director at Dropbox UK

Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Business Reporter

Business Reporter

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