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SMEs: Overcoming the top 5 barriers to adopting new tech

Globally, the UK ranks 8th for innovation, but only 31st for technology adoption. So why's that?

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New research has identified that effective use of digital technology can improve productivity of SMEs by up to 25%. Globally, it found the UK currently ranks 8th for innovation, but only 31st for technology adoption. This is particularly acute for SMEs where they are significantly less likely to use technology than their European competitors. For example, while 40% of small German businesses have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, in the UK it’s just 26%.

Be the Business, a joint government and industry funded organisation aimed at supporting SMEs, has recently released a white paper that shows the barriers to digital uptake and how they can be overcome. We summarise its key findings, recommendations and offer our take on its content.

Barrier 1 – Products built for enterprise, not SMEs

Software products such as HR, accounting, and stock control systems are often built for the enterprise market. For SMEs this can mean paying for features they don’t need, overly complex implementations, and significant training considerations. SMEs want products that are easy to use and can be easily tailored to their needs - that aren’t filled with jargon.

For many SMEs, these barriers are never overcome, meaning the benefits the technology could provide are never realised. The paper recommends more resources to help SMEs ‘navigate the marketplace’ to ensure a good fit between SME and solution provider. On its website, Be the Business has published a series of case studies and launched a tool to support SMEs understand their needs and how technology can help.

Barrier 2 – It looks too hard and too expensive

SMEs are often looking to solve one specific pain point. Adoption of an off-the-shelf enterprise solution often means having to re-engineer several major areas of the business all at the same time. SMEs need support to understand the return on their potential investment and to focus on getting value for money as early as possible.

track hurdles

Barrier 3 – Switching feels too high risk

SMEs are often concerned about losing data and the disruption to their business. Many businesses become locked-in to using systems that are no longer fit for purpose. At Switchplane, we see this situation all the time - with business critical operations running from an Excel spreadsheet that few truly understand.

Barrier 4 – Lack of expertise and execution support

Whereas larger organisations have IT departments, for SMEs the implementation and key decisions customarily fall to the business owner. We can certainly understand this and our model of delivering value incrementally and frequently avoids the potential disruption of a ‘big bang’ style implementation and means we can respond quickly to changing priorities.

Barrier 5 – End-user adoption problems

Getting the most from any technology relies on end users using it to its full potential. Our ‘Discovery’ phase is designed to ensure we start by gaining a deep understanding of the businesses’ pain points and developing solutions that address its user’s needs. For further reading, we’ve also written an article here about how you can overcome that cultural resistance to change in your workplace.

Next steps

We’re inspired by how Be the Business is supporting SMEs use technology to increase productivity and grow. The full white paper, The UK’s Technology Moment – Why 2020 Can Be the Year That Changed Our Trajectory on Tech is available here. They also have published a diagnostic tool to help identify where your business could improve.

If you’d like to understand how Switchplane can help your business overcome these barriers, please get in touch.

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