6 Oct 2021

Right advice key to digital technology investment success

Digital technology investment

Digital capabilities are essential for improving productivity and future proofing a business. But with new research proving rapidly evolving technology can be confusing – navigating through the digital maze requires help.

One of the key trends accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic has been the implementation of digital tools, with over half (54 per cent) SME population improving digital capabilities, according to a recent survey conducted by Be the Business and the Open University. Skills for Success - Supporting Business Leaders with Digital Adoption also revealed that sixteen per cent of technology adoption in the past year would not have happened at all if the pandemic had not occurred.

Furthermore, of the business leaders who adopted new technology or accelerated its use due to coronavirus, a full 85 per cent plan to continue using it at the same level once restrictions are completely lifted.

However not all the survey’s findings are as positive. More than half (54 per cent) of business leaders reported that they believed good technology purchasing decisions had been made. However, of this group just one in ten (12 per cent) make “very good decisions”, they revealed. This lack of confidence is supported by other findings. In particular, fewer than a quarter of business leaders (23 per cent) are confident that they have all the necessary technical skills to successfully adopt and implement technology and only a third believe they have all the necessary leadership and management skills.

What did survey respondents tell us technology could have the greatest impact on?

  • 39 per cent – increasing efficiency

  • 31 per cent – increasing revenue

  • 27 per cent – increasing profit margin

  • 24 per cent – increasing flexibility

  • 21 per cent – don’t think technology could have any positive impact

However, help is at hand. In Scotland the government has just announced an extra £25m to help SMEs make the most of digital technologies and to enhance workforce skills. The extra funding for DigitalBoost – Scotland’s national digital upskilling programme – aims to support economic recovery, post-pandemic.

The Business Gateway scheme offers grants of between £2,500 and £20,000 to SMEs on a 50/50 investment basis. The DigitalBoost fund, which is funded by the Scottish Government and Digital Scotland, has already helped more than 2,200 businesses from all sectors, invest in hardware, business management software, ecommerce and data analytics.

The additional investment will allow companies to access expert advice on how to adopt the technology and skills needed to increase competitiveness, productivity and resilience.

“Over the course of the pandemic we’ve seen many independent and local Scottish firms build their digital capabilities to keep trading,” said Andrew McRae, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Scotland. “But many of these same operators will have depleted their cash reserves during the last 18 months.”

He added: “That’s why we’re pleased that ministers have listened to FSB by re-opening their ground-breaking DigitalBoost grant scheme. This welcome initiative will help more small but growing Scottish firms build on the innovation forced by the crisis.”

Help is at hand

Be the Business also offers help and guidance here, with practical advice on everything from getting started with customer relationship management (CRM) and digital accounting software to using business intelligence (BI) effectively and making the most of supply chain management software.

Jane Vincent, director of Fortem People, a recruitment consultancy, was looking for a CRM system in order to make the business more efficient and productive. However, she had ended up wasting time and money on two CRM systems that hadn’t delivered. To avoid wasting more valuable cash and to get help developing a culture that would allow people to work flexibly, she turned to an external consultant for advice.

“It’s been quite hard because you’re trying to run a business, you're trying to make money, but then at the same time look at technology,” she said. “There’s never enough time to do that stuff but it's so important because ultimately if you do get it right, it's going to improve process and speed up what you do. So you have to take a step back.”

Expert advice has meant that Jane has focussed on exactly what she wants from a CRM system. As a result, she’s avoided previous mistakes which involved buying a product that was more expensive and elaborate than the one that she needed.

“Don’t just listen to the salesman, don’t just look at the spec of the tech. Really think about what you do on a day-to-day basis,” she advised. The solution that Jane chose, with advice from Sarah Wass, an independent consultant, was specifically for recruitment providers and has the capacity to scale up as the business grows, setting it up for future success.