Small firms look to the cloud, says surveyApr 29, 2013
The Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain produced by the Open University Business School examined the use of mobile and web-based services and found that more than 21% of respondents are now using ‘cloud-based’ providers to run their back office services.
Two years ago, only 8% of respondents reported using them. SMEs are also showing the way by embracing mobile internet technologies but security, privacy and technology are still major challenges in moving a higher proportion of business activity online.
The report, sponsored by Barclays Bank and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants found that the most popular business activities conducted via static internet are ‘general communication’ with existing customers and suppliers (85%) and checking bank account balances (85%).
It also showed the highest reported usage of mobile internet technologies is among relatively small firms.
Dr Richard Blundel, of The Open University Business School, said: “These new communications technologies are enabling SME owners and managers to make radical changes to the way they do business.
“One of the most striking findings in our report is that the smallest firms are often among the most innovative in this arena, particularly in their willingness to adopt mobile internet and cloud computing.”
The research also highlights major obstacles, most notably privacy and security concerns, that service providers will need to overcome before firms in the UK are going to feel confident enough to move a much larger proportion of their business activity on to new mobile and web-based platforms.
Barclays Business Banking managing director Sue Hayes said: “The research and our experience show us that the way businesses interact with their bank is evolving. Improvements in technology will enable small firms to spend less time worrying about their finances and more time focused on their business.”
ACCA senior economic analyst Manos Schizas said: "Entrepreneurs need to keep in mind what level of responsiveness and inter-operability their clients expect. The Open University findings suggest that larger businesses, as well as those in B2B sectors, take such technologies for granted."
Responses to the regular questions in the Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain showed there are some signs of optimism in the UK economy.
Stronger sales in manufacturing and hotel and restaurant sectors and improved employment performance were reported, while SMEs in construction, manufacturing, health, education, leisure and retailing were more upbeat about future sales.
SMEs anticipate a stronger overall improvement in sales performance in the first quarter of 2013, as compared to a more stable picture over the previous two quarters.