IT services provider OGL Computer has revealed the top technology concerns and priorities for UK SMEs.
The report highlights newer technologies such as 5G, robotics and AI that SMEs plan to adopt, how SMEs are using technology to power remote workforces and what technologies they are adopting for growth.
Emerging technologies adoption
The research shows that while SMEs are familiar with, and implement mainstream technology, they also plan to invest in emerging technology. In the context of the wider report that shows a key priority for 2020 being to increase cybersecurity provision (39%) and showing cyber-attack as a top concern (67%), the implementation of cybersecurity technologies (79%) is entirely consistent. Interestingly 78% of UK SMEs are already familiar with managing data and analytics, while digital transformation (74%) also makes a strong showing. Additionally, cloud and hosted platforms (66%) and Internet of Things (59%) are being used to become more productive and efficient, providing a competitive advantage, and boosting both sales and revenue.
SMEs have long recognized the opportunities technology provides to foster growth and improve profit margins, so appetites for new and emerging technologies are strong SMEs have long recognized the opportunities technology provides to foster growth and improve profit margins, so appetites for new and emerging technologies are strong. The top five technologies SMEs plan to adopt are:
- 5G 59%*
- Robotics 55%
- Automation 39%
- AI 39%
- Blockchain 37%
With 5G networks really establishing themselves in 2020, 59% of businesses are planning to adopt this technology in order to stay ahead of competitors and use its full potential.
For SMEs, any gain in productivity can have a huge impact hence the interest in robotics, with 55% planning to adopt the technology. While full-scale robots can be expensive, large and complex to install, a new generation of collaborative robots (or “cobots”) is changing the game for smaller companies by working alongside humans helping to complete tasks more effectively, offering new opportunities for employees, and even improving worker safety.
With 39% of SMEs planning to adopt automation technologies, it’s clear that offerings such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are becoming more popular to remove the burden that cumbersome manual processes and repetitive tasks can have on day-to-day business operations. SMEs can potentially benefit from a low-cost, accessible way to understand their data faster, enabling them to make better and more informed decisions. Especially as RPA can now be provided as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering.
Some analyst firms have predicted that UK GDP will be up to 10% higher by 2030 as a result of AI – the equivalent of an additional £232 billion – making it one of the biggest commercial opportunities in today’s fast-changing economy. While some SMEs are still not sure about potential use cases of AI for them, 39% of SMEs are planning to adopt the technology, with many innovative SMEs significantly cutting costs and delivering improved customer experience with AI-powered applications, which can be used for a range of tasks including automation, improved customer communication via chatbots and AI-powered personal assistants saving time and improving email efficiency.
Scott Willmott, Head of R&D, OGL Computer, comments:
“AI technologies are mainly used for intelligent automation and acceleration of various complicated tasks and processes, and together with Machine Learning, they are helping to fight cybercriminals.
Take, for example, Kaspersky Threat Intelligence – a service that offers global intelligence from hundreds of sources. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, it produces high-quality threat data.
While next-generation anti-virus product Carbon Black Defense helps protect user endpoints by not only looking for known viruses and malware but also inspecting files and identifying threats by analyzing previous user’s behavior. This deeper level of inspection allows CyberGuard Technologies to spot smart and complex threats that would normally go undetected.”
Blockchain has the potential to offer many benefits to SMEs, with 37% planning to adopt the technology for benefits such as trust, speed, increased safety and security as well as risk reduction in terms of less identity fraud and hacking, thereby reducing time and unnecessary costs. Blockchain is also a powerful supply chain automation tool, enabling the use of smart contracts to automatically manage processes that are currently manual.
The drivers behind new technology adoption for UK SMEs shone through loud and clear, with just over half (51%) stating that cybersecurity threats were the biggest reason, beating even competitive advantage which came in second at 44%.
Attracting and retaining new talent at 40% was neck-and-neck with enabling remote and flexible working at 40%, and also with facilitating collaboration with customers and partners at 40%, a strong indicator of the value placed on a skilled workforce and good communication.
Survey participant Ian Wright, Managing Director of SDI Displays, commented: “We will look at each technology on its own merit, to see if it benefits our business. We have no immediate intentions to change everything, but working with OGL Computer, we want to keep moving with the times.
“The main reason for adopting new technologies is to be as efficient as possible. As long as it is secure and provides a business efficiency then it’s worth trying. It has to be right for our business though.”