Technology is the ‘tipping point’ for SME success

Almost 80 per cent of companies believe that technology plays an essential part in their plans for growth, helping businesses to up their game and reach larger audiences, according to a new study commissioned by TalkTalk Business based on research by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

The report’s author, Richard Cree, editor of ICAEW magazine economia said “There is no doubt that the application of technology is increasingly important to all businesses, regardless of sector and irrespective of their ambitions for growth. However, when it comes to how technology affects growth, respondents were clear that its key role was to deliver value by driving efficiencies and savings.”

The Geared for Growth report, which looks into the ambitions of UK businesses, also revealed that almost two thirds of respondents expected some business growth in the year ahead despite the economy, with one in 10 business owners setting this as their number one goal. Within this last group, classified by the report as ‘Thrivers’, healthcare, business and financial services and the media were most prevalent.

The majority (52 per cent) of UK businesses, classified in the report as ‘Strivers’, claimed to have modest growth ambitions. ‘Despondents’, which made up just five per cent of businesses surveyed, believed their business would downsize in the near future.

The Geared for Growth Report found that the top 10 per cent most ambitious companies were twice as likely to recognise the role technology has to play in bringing about growth, than those happy to stay a similar size. They were also least likely to think that luck played a part in their success.

Managing director of TalkTalk Business, Charles Bligh, commented: “Technology plays a pivotal role, with 80% of respondents saying it was important or very important to help drive value through efficiencies and savings. British SMEs are clear that they need access to affordable technology to help control costs. The two thirds of SMES that are still ‘offline’ need to urgently consider the huge opportunities they could be missing, potentially valued at £18.8bn per year.*”

The report also explored key factors that impact on success such as people management and training. Almost a quarter of businesses that took part said that they are affected by the skills gap and need better technical knowhow within their teams to succeed. A huge 49 per cent say that the skills held by the management team are critical to the business’ success or failure.

Commenting on the technology skills gap, Charles added; “In a fast-moving digital economy, the companies most likely to succeed and grow are those with technically-skilled staff. Business can also help themselves to move from good to great by giving greater priority to IT training where needed and realising best value from their existing teams.

“My advice to SMEs would be to seek out providers that offer simple, easy to use solutions and the right level of support. Technology suppliers have a duty to lower the skills threshold wherever we can to make it easier for small businesses to take advantage of the power of technology.”