Fuelling the Digital Economy

Written by Simon Hansford, CEO of UKCloud

If you search online for “SMEs and cloud”, you will not be immediately pointed to pages and pages of digital innovation, but rather to pages and pages of demystification and guidance for SMEs about cloud, with a strong presumption that the cloud in question will be SaaS.

Almost every business in the UK has a digital dependency, even if it is just email and a desktop. Many of these business, even if not considered a technology business, will be knowingly, or unknowingly, consuming cloud and digital services. The symbiosis between digital and the UK economy has never been stronger.

Even the European Commission, which has a difficult relationship with cloud, recognises the wider economic benefits if Europe’s SMEs were to accelerate cloud adoption, estimating that policy driven cloud adoption could contribute €250bn GDP to the EU, and create up to 3.8m jobs.

Cloud makes the unthinkable thinkable. Great ideas can be built, finessed, scaled, or discarded in record time. Digital innovation is founded on industrialised cloud services. No upfront costs, utility cost models, minimum contract terms and scalability makes cloud ubiquitous in the digital innovation space.  Much of the UK’s digital innovation is driven by SMEs.

By any measure, cloud, SMEs and digital are a powerful recipe for economic growth. Within the UK, the digital economy is growing around 30% faster than the rest of the economy. Impressive but hardly surprising given the UK’s innate talents for innovation and entrepreneurialism.

If the UK is at the forefront of a global digital revolution, it is our own government that is blazing the trail. It has huge challenges, notably a complex, inefficient and costly legacy technology estate, an increasingly digitally literate consumer base (the citizen), inadequate digital skills for the task in hand and now Brexit.

These challenges are unparalleled opportunities for SMEs.  Government’s target for doing business with SME’s has increased from 25% to 33%, and the Government Digital Service recently restated government’s “Cloud First” policy.  Sales of G-Cloud services to the UK government are approaching £1.4bn – and 52% of these sales (by value) have gone to SMEs. G-Cloud has consistently eclipsed government’s SME target since it went live in 2012.

Five or six years ago it would have been unthinkable that there would be so many opportunities for SMEs – including those that are new to government – to do business with government, and make a difference for the citizen. Government values the SME community for its innovation, agility and economic contribution.  It has made its procurement processes simpler, and ensured that SME friendly practice was embedded in the current procurement regulations.

Doing business with government has never been more straightforward for SMEs, and SMEs that can provide cloud services, or work alongside cloud service providers, are extremely well positioned to help government meet its challenges – whether that is unpicking and migrating away from government’s legacy estate, providing innovative solutions to improve the citizen’s experience of government, or helping government rise to its Brexit challenge. Collectively, SMEs and cloud can make a huge difference – by making things better for the citizen and the taxpayer, and in doing so, helping to grow the UK’s economy too.

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