As we start to emerge, recover, and learn from the pandemic there are some real bright spots where digital transformation has been the saviour for small and medium businesses throughout the UK. Here at Sage, our customers tell us that leveraging digital solutions and transforming parts of their business have become critical elements of emerging stronger. As we return to more normal times, having a digitally enabled business will increase business capability and resilience against future challenges. Since SMEs account for 99% of UK businesses and three fifths of UK employment, the optimism they show is a significant indicator that the bounce back will be fuelled by the energy and passion of those small business owners. Digital will be at the heart of this.
New research released by Sage, shows that over half of UK SMEs used new technology to sell more, stay connected with customers and improve operations during the pandemic. By way of example, we have seen the volume of payments, digitally initiated from our accounting solutions, increase fourfold during the pandemic. This has meant, businesses could streamline collections and make it easier for customers to pay their invoices at the same time. Increasingly banking, accounting and payment solutions are converging and becoming more integrated reducing the touchpoints, interventions and friction that historically have created work within small businesses.
Digital transformation is often seen as a panacea to drive more efficient operations. However, that form of change is increasingly a minimum requirement to be effective in business to benefit from the marginal gains it enables; the increased visibility of what is going on in the business and meeting customer experience expectations. Data driven insights and the use of AI-enabled reporting are very much part of the technology pivot. This enables SMEs to deal with change, swiftly re-forecast their entire business with high levels of confidence and as a result, determine the operational and financial impacts of a changing environment.
Disruption and innovation are where the real change happens and where growth will truly be nurtured. That is where the future waves of digital transformation will originate, as SME leaders start to experiment and innovate with new tech to both run their businesses more effectively and create new digital business models. Many businesses have already attained a degree of digital maturity, as a result they are unlocking new waves of growth or productivity and redefining their operating models.
Digital Leaders Week now in its 4th Year, is packed with many virtual sessions covering all aspects of digital transformation and provides an amazing showcase of the creativity, innovation and determined execution that leaders in all types of business have achieved. The Sage DL Week Badge for Business has picked out ten sessions, which are specifically geared up to help small & medium sized businesses, to get the most out of DL Week and learn about a diverse range of approaches, solutions, and outcomes. Some draw on experiences from the corporate world, others are more specific to the SME sector, they are all amazing examples of championing digital change.
Sage’s recent research shows our UK SMEs are forecast to generate up to 1.2 million new jobs in the in the UK and in doing so increase our Digital Leadership position. Having adapted and survived, optimism amongst SMEs is positive and underpinned by vaccine rollout programmes, seeing customers in person again and projections of increased consumer spending. That optimism is fuelling further investment in the technology that helped sustain their businesses over the past 18 months.