The full extent of the way digital technology is transforming British working life is apparent in new research published by Brunel University. The study – essentially a snapshot of the digital revolution in 2015 – found that 98 percent of the 830 businesses surveyed have a website, 8 in 10 manage finances online, 53 percent provide flexible working and 63 percent see innovation as a way to improve customer satisfaction. However, the study also reveals a major gulf between big business and SMEs, with larger firms significantly more digitized than their smaller contemporaries. This raises concerns over the preparedness of the SME sector at a time when the Government’s growth agenda has prioritized nurturing and supporting new and evolving enterprises – and for whom the digital battleground has broken down traditional barriers to entry.
For the first time the study has created a scoring system for measuring the digitization of British business. It also reveals wide-ranging regional variations in the digitization of business, with the East Midlands and South West emerging as the most digitized regions of the UK – ahead of businesses in London.
The Applegate-Brunel Digitization Index (ABDI) is a new measure against which companies can benchmark their digital maturity as a business, and by which policy makers can assess the health of businesses and sectors against a consistent measure. This survey covers four main areas of business operations – buying, selling, innovation and management. The study also provides a national gauge to assess the take-up and use of digital technologies by businesses across UK regions and industry sectors. This index will be published annually, to track both overall movement and also changes in different regions and types of business.
Key findings of the index include:
- 98 percent have a company website
- 88 percent make extensive use of online banking
- 64 percent find more than half of their suppliers online
- 63 percent expect digitization to further improve customer satisfaction
- 53 percent provide remote access to staff
- 52 percent research customer requirements online
- 46 percent have an intranet
- 45 percent make more than half of their purchases online
- 44 percent spend more than half of their marketing budget online
- 41 percent have adapted their websites for tablets and smartphones
Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO at Applegate Marketplace commented: “In just 25 years the world wide web has transformed British business. Life without a website today is simply unimaginable and businesses big and small are embracing the ability to research, to source, to pay and to manage through digital technologies. Engagement is universal, although our research does suggest many businesses can do still more to reap the benefits of digital technology fully. For example, whilst they research avidly online, only one in five businesses sell their products online. Also, more needs to be done to help the SME sector digitize at the same pace as big business to help them compete on an equal footing on the UK and internationally. The creation of this index to measure digitization will help provide a benchmark for the business community to ensure it is making the most of technology in order to invest in business growth for the future.”
Professor Zahir Irani, Dean of Business, Arts and Social Sciences at Brunel University London, said: “This new index provides businesses with a means to better understand themselves, through assessing what competitive advantage they have or to help prioritize those gaps they need to close to enhance their own performance. We see companies being able to make strategic decisions about where and how they invest based on information taken from this survey. Policy makers have a real opportunity to use the data to direct Government funding to inform regional, cities and town digital agendas.”
The story originally appeared on the Insight website.
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