Updated on 20/11/2020
Seventy years ago, the internet didn’t exist. If you were to ask anyone back then how technology affected day-to-day business, they’d probably think of manufacturing businesses, traditional printers, and typewriters.
Ask the same question in 2020, though, and you’ll get a very different answer. Technology is integral to the running of businesses in almost every single way. HR, sales, marketing, operations; all the fundamental disciplines that have been studied for decades and are relevant to most businesses, are fuelled by technology.
The UK’s tech sector is growing quickly, with the turnover of tech companies growing by 4.5% between 2016 and 2017 (compared to a 1.7% growth in GDP). In 2018, turnover in the digital technology sector was £184bn, and in 2019, £13.2bn was raised for tech start-ups. In light of this explosive growth, this article will explore the relevancy of tech to businesses today and reflect on how tech integrations amongst SMEs have evolved throughout the pandemic.
The working-from-home lifestyle that a huge number of UK employees have adopted during the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a greater dependency on tech for businesses. In an immediate sense, historic, paper-based processes that may have been commonplace in offices have had to move online, and face-to-face catchups or conversations must now be conducted digitally.
This forced shift towards tech dependency is probably a defining feature of 2020, and the repercussions for businesses are widespread. Not only must businesses train their employees to embrace new technologies, but they must also upskill to ensure they can continue to compete.
Take, for example, an independent clothing business that has shut their shop to consumers and pivoted toward running a delivery service during lockdown. That seller may find themselves competing more with rival local businesses, while trying to balance the books and account for tough times financially. With staff members working from home, this business may now feel a greater need to:
They’ll also need to check that their cyber security processes are up-to-date, ensuring that their data is protected in the event of a cyber-attack, especially as the reported number of cyber-attacks increased by 31% between May-June alone this year, in the height of the pandemic. Advancements in technology must continually be met by consequent upgrades to security- which can include anti-virus and software updates as a starting point but there are a number of resources available on the National Crime Agency website.
These are just some of the ways in which technology has impacted SMEs in 2020. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the key trends that are impacting companies’ tech approaches.
Here are some of the key ways in which businesses have evolved their technology during the pandemic.
There’s a huge wealth of content and reports available online that indicate the colossal growth of the computer sector in the UK during the pandemic. Channel Pro, for example, report that sales of notebooks rapidly increased by 50% during the first three weeks of the pandemic back in March to enable more of us to work from home digitally.
You’ll find similar data on the growth of webcams, peripherals, personal computers and ethernet cables – so investing in your tech infrastructure could be key to remaining competitive in 2020.
It’s not just the volume of technology within each business that is important- but how that technology is used. 2020 has seen employees learning a new set of social rules around digital F2F communication.
These rules include having a decent image quality, positioning yourself so that you’re visible on calls, and muting to avoid any background noise. Interestingly, these mirror the same sort of niceties and polite habits we have in our real-world communications but are modified to fit the digital sphere.
As a small business owner, you may want to ensure that your employees feel competent using technology and embracing these rules - and if not then you might want to invest some time into explaining it and producing some handy guides for them.
When you think of the technology that has increased in 2020, you might think of personnel-oriented tech such as PCs, or software such as Zoom calls. However, there’s also sales-based technology to consider.
The proliferation of e-commerce technology amongst SMEs is likely to be remembered as a distinctive part of 2020, as convenience stores and local business find themselves having to say goodbye to cash transactions and embrace card machine payments and contactless options- such as Google or Apple Pay.
Two words that sum up the adoption of tech this year could be ‘forced change’. Businesses have had to adapt, overcome or even survive the challenges they’ve faced, and technology has been a key enabler of this.
As a business owner, you may find it useful to reflect on the way you feel about new technology in general. Tech is typically something you can get excited about. It’s fuelled by new ideas and innovation - and it may bring exciting benefits to your business. Whether the new technologies you adopt could potentially unlock fascinating data insights that could fuel your sales approach, or whether they enable a level of customer engagement that better establishes your brand, it’s possible that tech can bring about some exciting opportunities.
One final practical tip from us is that the sellers of technologies that you’ll typically encounter in business, primarily software, often run free demonstrations of how the technology works to help you get to grips with it. It may be worth, then, exploring new tech options and asking companies what their innovation can bring to your small business.
And who knows, perhaps we’ll chuckle when we look back at our current tech adoption seventy years from now.