Matesourcing IT support could create small business headaches

British SMEs are increasingly turning to friends and family to get advice on IT purchases and to solve their IT issues, according to research published today.

The trend of ‘matesourcing’ has seen more than 1.3 million small businesses turn to mates and loved ones to help them with their IT issues in the last twelve months in a bid to cut costs, yet almost half have found it has led to further IT issues.
In response, PC World Business, who commissioned the Trends Research survey, is piloting a free training programme to help small businesses, their friends, families and even neighbours brush up on their IT knowledge and source the right IT equipment for their business.
Run by its small business IT experts, the “Business Sense Workshops” are full day events at PC World stores aimed at addressing all of the key technology issues SMEs face plus top tips for purchasing the correct IT equipment first time around.
For start ups, getting the wrong IT purchasing advice from friends and family can be a costly mistake.  According to the research, SME’s main outlay when setting up was technology, ahead of staff costs. It is important to get the right advice first time and can save SMEs money by ensuring they get the right IT solution for their business at the outset.
“Phoning a friend used to be a lifeline,” said Phil Birbeck, Managing Director, PC World Business. “But when it comes to getting IT procurement advice and solving IT issues, your best friend could become your business’s worst enemy.
Clearly a lack of resource is causing a huge number of small and medium sized businesses to take a risk and put the productivity of their business in the hands of one of their mates. We’re starting to see the impact of this and, with SMEs playing such a crucial role in the recovery of the economy, something needs to be done to help.”
The research, carried out among SME business leaders, clearly shows that the matesourcing trend is on the rise.
Over a quarter of UK SMEs are now regularly matesourcing, an increase of 20% in the last six months.  Some small businesses are so desperate for help they have resorted to calling on their next door neighbours for help.
As a result, additional stress is being placed on SMEs with almost one third worrying that their firm does not have the necessary support to cope with a major IT issue.
This trend is also having a significant impact on productivity with the majority of those surveyed losing two hours of productive time a week due to failed IT.
This equates to the UK losing over 950,000 days of productivity per week3.  Yet time is not the only thing SMEs are losing, 17% lost a customer / client or failed to win new business or as a result of IT issues.
“There are alternatives to matesouring that don’t require large capital outlay such as hiring a dedicated IT employee or outsourcing to an IT consultant,” added, Birbeck.  “For example, many small business owners, and their friends, can now access free SME IT advice from dedicated experts on the high street.