Business technology is becoming more important, according to new research, although companies are struggling to develop the necessary skills.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Businesses are seeing strong returns on their investment in technology, but are often lacking the skills and the guidance to make the most of the opportunities it offers.

This is the main finding of a report by Intellect, the technology industry trade association, and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The two organisations have joined forces to investigate the ways in which businesses are benefiting from using technology.

A survey of 2,200 people undertaken for the report found that 85 per cent of small businesses saw technology as one of the main spurs towards growth within their company - an impressive return, considering that the average amount invested over the past twelve months was £3,500.

Customer relations have benefited hugely from developments in business technology. More than six out of ten believed communications with their existing customers had improved as new systems had been introduced and over half even said it had been useful in finding new clients.

But even though businesses attach so much importance to technology as a driver of growth, there is a clear disconnect between their enthusiasm for new systems and their technical skills. Many admitted that they struggled with the software and products they had invested in and were hungry for further advice on how and when to use which technologies. It was also felt that a better choice of specialist software designed for smaller firms would be welcomed.

A quarter of these businesses said that they would be able to invest more in their technological capacity if their workforces were better equipped to deal with them and since the report also says that improved technical skills among workers can increase staff productivity, it seems that more comprehensive IT training and support would be invaluable in helping some businesses get off the ground.

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman at FSB, says that workers at all levels of a company have to build up their skills and awareness to make the most of the opportunities technology can offer.

It is well documented that demand for IT technicians and consultants is growing by the day both in the UK and around the EU. But the emphasis on training and investment highlighted by this report proves that there is demand within the British economy that has yet to be fully acknowledged, let alone met.

Following the survey, Intellect and FSB have urged the government to develop a specific business technology task force. By running events alongside private sector providers, the task force would be able to provide expert advice, while business leaders from different industries and backgrounds could learn from each other’s experiences.

They have also called on Local Enterprise Partnerships to keep technological investment high among their priorities when sharing out funding, emphasising the significance of upskilling and expansion in generating business growth.

Julian David, Intellect director general, said that the organisation would jointly issue new information on the best way to approach technology investment for small companies, ensuring that they had at least some immediate advice from industry experts.

One of the most important things to take from the report, he continued, was the importance of hands-on advice and sharing good practice between companies.

By Victoria McDonnell

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