Small businesses could get three and a half weeks back by embracing technology [REPORT]

Small businesses could get three and a half weeks back by embracing technology [REPORT]

Posted: Tue 12th Dec 2023

Small business owners in the UK could get as much as three and a half weeks of productive working time back if they fully embraced even basic technology, a major new Enterprise Nation study has found.

The report, Time is money: How adopting technology can make businesses more productive, took a deep dive into the small business community's day-to-day relationship with common tech tools and found that despite significant strides forward, worrying gaps in uptake remain.

For example, just 14% claim to use third-party storage for backing up data, and only 29% say they use a customer relationship management system.

With even more effective tech tools including advances in generative artificial intelligence (AI) on the horizon, the report found that without support, the UK's small and medium business (SMB) community will miss out on time savings, greater security, evidence-led decision-making, new sales and, ultimately, business success.

Emma Jones CBE, founder and CEO of Enterprise Nation, said:

"Technology is indispensable for businesses looking to boost productivity, enhance security, and use data to guide better decisions. Smaller firms still feel the barriers to realising the benefits that come with adopting technology.

"The findings from this report have important implications for the UK economy. Tech tools are available to improve business operations and we want business owners to have full access to these tools and the skills to make the most of them.

"Unlocking the benefits of adopting tech will require a collective effort to address the barriers -- from the tech industry, government, business support providers and business users themselves, which is why we launched Tech Hub earlier this year. There is absolutely no doubt tech tools can provide an achievable path towards greater success and resilience for small firms across the UK."

Jo Wedlock, brand, marketing and communications director at Vodafone Business UK, said:

"The findings in this report underline the importance of technology and the underlying connectivity that will help SMBs grow and thrive. It also highlights the need for Government & technology providers to come together to coordinate support, and that is exactly what Vodafone is proud to be doing through the Tech Hub alongside Enterprise Nation and our partners."

Aine Rogers, managing director of small and medium enterprise at Cisco UK & Ireland, said:

"Having the right technology in place is key for SME productivity. As the world becomes ever more connected, it can also enable SMEs to access new markets, tap into new pools of talent and drive innovation by reaching customers in new ways.

"When it comes to digital transformation, SMEs have a big advantage: agility. It has never been simpler and more affordable to adopt cloud-based solutions, and there are a host of free resources available to help support the digital skills of employees, such as the Cisco Networking Academy, which has a series of free, self-paced training courses."

The report, which found that 70% of respondents said the cost of software licences was the main reason they hadn't yet adopted technology, follows the launch of a new generation Tech Hub which aims to be a universal one-stop-shop solution for the UK's 5.6m SMBs.

Skills and confidence also play pivotal roles in how tech transforms businesses. The report found that despite 77% of businesses using cloud storage, file sharing and simultaneous editing, only 31% of respondents felt 'very confident' their business had the skills to use the technology.

Businesses have the least confidence in using point of sales systems (28% not confident at all they have the skills to use it), customer service workflow automation (27%), and speech recognition software (24%).

But the report also highlighted gender disparities with actively keeping up with trends in business technology. While overall, more than three-quarters of businesses (77%) regard themselves as 'active' in keeping up with trends, the difference between male and female founders is a cause for concern. The report found 43% of men say they are 'very active' at keeping up with technology trends, compared to 21% of women.


The recommendations in the report include:

  • Reward businesses for adopting technology with new financial support.

  • Offer targeted tax incentives, and time-limited subsidies, to support businesses with the cost of adopting technology.

  • Invest in new training programmes and support designed to introduce small business owners to emerging technology, and to ease their concerns where legal reasons are stopping them from using the tech effectively.

Tech Hub is supported by British telecommunications leader Vodafone UK, global tech innovation firm Cisco, market leading SMB technology companies Sage and Google and built by business support platform specialist Enterprise Nation. It is backed by the professional body for technology, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.


A roundtable of the Tech Hub partners, senior government policymakers and small business owners took place to launch the report. Read a summary of the discussion here.

Tech Hub report

Small business case studies

Victoria Tomlinson, CEO, Next-Up Ltd

Leeds-based Victoria Tomlinson is chief executive and founder of Next-Up Ltd, a company that is rethinking work for the over 50s. She said:

"I am 68 and this year launched an online platform for employers to help employees think and plan for retirement. I am not techie. I had a sense of what I wanted the platform to achieve and all the content, but had no idea where to start, what the end-product might look like or who could help.

"Luckily in Leeds we have an amazing network of tech entrepreneurs who helped. Plain English videos to explain the difference between coding and No Code would have been valuable. I just needed to know where to start and how. And a list of trusted developers. And people like me sharing their stories to say 'go for it', we aren't mad!"

Joanne Christoforides

Garden planner Joanne Christoforides, CEO and founder of Jo Make Me A Garden, is based in Bridgewater, Somerset. She said:

"Someone needs to teach the language of tech. Not knowing how to talk to people in the tech sector is a huge barrier to progress. I wasted time and money on unsuitable tech that was quickly abandoned. A source of trusted recommendations would be really useful! Support focused on implementing systems early on is key. Let's have more of the basics; the vital things, whereby knowing or not knowing can make or break a business."

Tai Ray-Jones

Tai Ray-Jones, managing director of fermented drinks firm Old Tree Brewery, is based in Lewes, East Sussex. He said:

"While we focus on making handcrafted, small-batch drinks, we also use many cloud-based services across all aspects of our business. We've tried our best to reduce the amount of paper and handwriting as much as possible, and things are so much easier and better organised now than they've ever been. But we are looking to upgrade many of our systems to become even more efficient and grow.

"There are so many options for everything out there, and we would really appreciate having the opportunity to speak with experienced individuals in our industry about the types of systems and services they've used over the years, and which might best fit our needs."


Tech Hub: Recommendations and resources to help small businesses adopt new technology

About Tech Hub

Backed by top technology firms, Tech Hub is a new-generation, one-stop-shop solution that allows businesses to access industry-leading digital tools, training, support, and know-how to succeed, all in one place. Take me to the hub

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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