First survey of how South West businesses are faring with technology
The biggest barriers to South West businesses making the most of technology have been revealed.
Cost, lacking the knowledge to make the right decisions and the time to focus on improvements to existing technology are the three top barriers according to a new survey.
Exeter-based technology support and strategy firm Timewade carried out the regional survey, in partnership with Tech South West, to shed light on how firms are using technology and uncover reasons behind the region’s productivity gap.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the South West has some of the lowest productivity levels in England.
Despite the barriers, most companies in the region recognise the importance of technology to driving stronger growth. But whilst 91% say it is extremely or very important to have a long-term strategy for improving their IT systems and technology, only 51% have a strategy where technology is considered across the whole business.
Julian Wills, Managing Director at Timewade, said: “This is a fascinating insight into how organisations are using technology today and their views on new and emerging trends. There are real positives, with companies very aware that technologies offer new opportunities. It’s good that most recognise the barriers to harnessing technology, yet many are not being strategic when it comes to considering how best to use technology across their whole organisation. That means they will not be achieving their full potential and risk losing their competitive edge.”
Businesses including Stephens Scown, Bishop Fleming, King Recruit, Alderman Tooling, Cathedral Appointments, Pecorama, Time Well Spent, Sarah West Recruitment, DS Callards, Questae Ventures and the Family Law Company, met at Exeter Science Park for the launch of the report and to discuss its findings.
The full report is available at: www.timewade.com/your-technology-for-success-report
Improving flexible work options, service delivery, data analysis and organisational efficiency were the four key areas where businesses feel technology can help them grow. Automation and artificial intelligence are seen as two types of technology which could be used more to have a positive impact.
The three most important technologies for businesses today are seen as IT for remote working, cyber security and internal IT systems. Businesses expect cloud computing to eclipse them all within five years.
Toby Parkins, chair of Tech South West and Founding Director of Headforwards in Cornwall, said: “Technology can be used in so many ways to improve an organisation, be that internal processes, customer service, creating new products or entering new markets. It is vital for business leaders to understand and make the best business decisions possible, and that has to include technology.
“In an increasingly digital world, a company’s approach to technology will either enhance or erode its competitive edge.”
Companies including Stephens Scown LLP, Crowdcube, Applegate Marketplace, Vanguard Accessories, Pepper Communications and Cathedral Appointments have contributed insight into how they are using technology for the report.
A Technology for Success group has been set up, with businesses meeting monthly at Exeter Science Park to learn, share ideas, listen to experts and develop their approach to using technology.
Robert Camp, Strategic Innovation Director at South West law firm Stephens Scown, said: “We are looking at innovative ways to connect with customers, remove frustrations and better understand emotional drivers. Using technology to make processes slicker for the customer and to interrogate the data behind a customer’s decision is key to maintaining the success of the business.”
Stuart Brocklehurst, Chief Executive, Applegate Marketplace and Chair, Heart of the South West Innovation Board, said: “One of the challenges when integrating emerging technologies into your business is understanding what’s real and what’s hype, and then translating the scientific theory into business reality.
“For us, choosing the right academic partner is key. Applegate is working with the Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at Exeter University. Having a subject matter expert as a non-executive on our board helps to ensure that business decisions consider the range of possibilities new technologies can bring.”
The survey also reveals problems with companies’ use of IT today, with a third admitting that their current IT system only supports their business slightly or moderately well. When it comes to IT skills, only 42% of business leaders believe employees are able to make full use of their IT.
Julian Wills, of Timewade, added: “It comes down to what businesses are prepared to do to break down the barriers. Investment and training are very important, but so to is leadership teams prioritising and making key decisions based on proper evidence.
“It takes time, effort and resources. But we have a productivity gap in the South West and technology is definitely one of the biggest ways we are going to close it.”
Visit www.timewade.com/your-technology-for-success-report to read the full report.