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Why the tech adoption gap is hampering UK business

(Image credit: Image Credit: Peshkova / Shutterstock)

UK businesses are no strangers to technology – almost every single employee uses a computer and most would find it impossible to run efficient customer operations if they had to go without automated digital processes. Yet there is a huge gap between the newest technology available and the tech that is used by companies in the UK. 

Bringing advanced technology to market is great in principle. But unless organisations and their teams are fully behind adopting the latest technology in the workplace, they will ultimately hamper their own growth, productivity and bottom lines. The rationale for adopting the latest technology is convincing – improved productivity, reduced overheads and enabling businesses to get closer to the customer than ever before. Yet many are choosing to ignore these reasons and stick to what they know, ultimately hurting their own prospects in the long run. 

The tech being left on the shelf

There’s a wide variety of technology now available, from web conferencing to mobile CRM tools and cloud storage, that is unfortunately being passed over in favour of legacy technology. And while a number of companies are beginning to integrate them into their everyday processes, more often than not they are choosing to leave these technologies on the shelf. 

The mass migration of internet users from desktop PCs to mobile devices is growing exponentially, with Zenith reporting that 75 per cent of global internet use will take place on mobile. The proportion of internet use on mobile has increased significantly, from 40 per cent in 2012 to 68 per cent in 2016 and by the end of 2018 it is predicted to reach 79 per cent. 

This has had a major impact on how business is conducted – users and customers both expect to be able to access information instantly and to receive updates in real-time, not when the team gets back to the office. As a result, teams need to have access to the very latest information on projects from their colleagues, who are often based in different locations. 

Mobile Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology aims to solve this problem and provides not just mobile access to data but also the ability to use existing CRM as the platform to build the entire mobile strategy – from customer-facing apps to internal support and customer service. By connecting teams with each other internally and with customers via mobile CRM, data can be shared in real-time across the business, enabling greater productivity and improved bottom lines.

Another example of innovative technology on the market comes through the use of Voice over IP (VOIP) to provide Cloud PBX services.  No longer do you need to own and have the expertise and cost to run your telephone switchboard, Cloud PBX moves the functions of the onsite PBX hardware and more, to the cloud. Calls can be routed to mobile devices supporting mobile and remote workers, desk phones for office based staff through the company IP network or connect via the many available PC apps that are VOIP enabled. This means employees can be contacted anywhere, and make calls from anywhere, increasing their availability to make things happen.

Web collaboration tools, such as iMeet that enable teams to share screens and video conference with each other are yet another example of advanced communication tools that are emerging on the market. Applications that allow teams to share documents and manage version control are further contributing to improving overall productivity and communication between teams. Yet suprisingly, companies have been slow to integrate these technologies as a standard across the board. Many are choosing to keep outdated systems that rely on manual processes and don’t take advantage of the latest data analysis tools.  This can be because the organisation restricts the version of the OS being used, and older versions of OS may simply not be up to the task required of them to support modern and innovative productivity tools that are now available in the workplace.

Businesses need to consider whether there are opportunities for some of their customers to purchase their products or services on-line and if so, formulate or re-formulate existing products and services to be “self service”.  This might change the way payments are taken within the business, and the way the products and services can be advertised and targeted to prospective customers.  This introduces those businesses to e-commerce tools for website build; Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Marketing (SEM) techniques, as well as on-line payment options.     

The harm to UK businesses

While there are a number of arguments for keeping existing hardware and software applications already used across a business – predominantly maintaining low costs – not moving with the times and integrating new technology will seriously hamper UK businesses in the long run. 

Chiefly, businesses who don’t adopt new technology are at risk of becoming stuck in the past and lagging behind competitors in terms of efficiency and productivity. Customers today expect to be able to resolve any issue within hours, not days – so those businesses who don’t have online customer support models 24/7 are automatically shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to customer experience management. 

In particular, those businesses who do not move online risk missing out on opportunities to increase their margins through integrating online subscription models. As seen in the retail market, customers want to be able to buy products at any time of the day and to have their purchases as soon as possible. Unless businesses move their models online, and integrate mobile payment methods, customers will choose to shop elsewhere where they can shop at any time, at their convenience. Many boutique businesses are missing out on significant revenue by not utilising the latest online mobile payment technologies to their full advantage. 

However, by integrating technologies such as mobile CRM, Cloud PBX, and e-commerce companies empower themselves to get closer to their customers. This will significantly help improve their responsiveness to customer needs and requests, and ultimately improve customer retention. The last few years have seen an overarching trend moving away from traditional working models towards smarter, flexible working. But choosing not to integrate the latest technology means businesses risk missing out on top talent. 

Today’s young professionals are continuing to challenge the traditional company set-up, rejecting the strict hierarchies and rigid 9 to 5 working hours. Drawn to companies that offer online training and wellbeing improvements to employees as well as recognising the importance of collaboration, the businesses that will thrive going forward are the ones that cater for this new generation of workers. 

The latest technological innovations are not a ‘nice to have’ for these employees, they are an absolute necessity. Many will actively avoid companies that are perceived to be stuck in the past, not offering up-to-date technology or flexible working practices. 

Building the bridge across the gap

Ultimately, bridging the gap in technology adoption requires 100 per cent buy-in from UK business leaders, and not just those in IT. All senior decision makers need to understand the real-life business benefits that integrating the latest technology will bring to their companies and work from the top-down to roll out the latest technology and communicate the new opportunities for the business across the company. 

Another important thing to note is changing regulations for UK businesses. In May 2018, new GDPR regulations will come into effect, meaning every UK company will have only 72 hours to report a data breach to the appropriate standards body. Failure to report a data breach will result in fines or either 4 per cent of global turnover or 20 million euros – whichever amount is larger. Many businesses will need to invest in new technology to ensure they are compliant with these new data handling and storage regulations. 

One way to reduce resistance to new technology and ensure full cooperation from everyone in the company is to roll out new processes department by department. Through showing positive case studies where the new technology has significantly helped a department in their day to day work across the company, this will ensure that everyone will be able to see the benefits it is bringing. To ensure this runs as smoothly as possible, it does require a well-planned and executed on-boarding process. 

For some members of staff, change can be quite daunting, so investment in training for all staff will be crucial to reduce the level of anxiety often associated with new processes and technology. Utilising short, snappy how-to videos will significantly help with this as will follow-up activities and open sessions with a dedicated person for those who aren’t confident with the new tech. 

While UK businesses are in one sense brilliant at embracing new technologies, the gap in technology adoption is staggering and needs to be addressed quickly. To avoid falling behind competitors in terms of productivity and efficiency and losing out on the top talent, companies must start investing in new technology. Ultimately, this requires full cooperation from those at the top of UK businesses – they need to lead by example from the top-down. 

Chris Martin is Chief Technology Officer at Powwownow (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Peshkova  / Shutterstock

Chris has been CTO at Powwownow for nearly a decade and has over 20 years’ experience in architecting, building and supporting technology platforms. A rarity, Chris is a flexible working CTO, spending on average two days a week working outside the office on his farm in Kent.