BT and EE: why mobile tech is vital for international business
Doing business with international markets is vital to thousands of SMEs across Europe. A recent EE survey asked business owners about how internation trade will impact their operations in the coming years, with many saying it will play a pivotal role.
We spoke to Lydia Hicks, director of SME product marketing at BT, to find out more how mobile technology can help businesses with expansion abroad.
1. How important are international markets to businesses for future growth?
International markets are extremely important for the growth of Britain’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as our recent research has shown. We asked 1000 senior decision makers in British SMEs about their attitudes to international trade, and found that they’re expecting international trade to drive 25 percent of their businesses’ growth over the next five years. But it’s not just a consideration for the future, a significant proportion of British SMEs already trade internationally (40 per cent), and a further six per cent plan to do so within the next five years.
2. Which countries are UK companies looking to for business opportunities?
Our research showed that the primary target growth markets for Britain’s SMEs are the US and Western Europe. 55 percent of SMEs currently operating internationally say their businesses are currently or planning to trade with the US market, while 82 percent said they are currently or planning to trade with Western Europe. After those, the Nordics is the third most popular growth market, with 44 per cent of SMEs currently or have plans to operate internationally saying they’re targeting the region.
3. How important is affordable mobile technology for these companies looking to expand their operations?
According to British SMEs, it’s crucial. Three quarters of SMEs that currently operate overseas said that using mobile devices while abroad for calls, text, email, web and file sharing in the same way they do at home was extremely important when travelling. Additionally, 70 per cent said mobile technology helps them better interact with overseas customers, partners and prospects.
4. How is EE helping in this respect?
UK SMEs show no signs of holding back on their international business ambitions, so we’ve built our EE Business Extra+ plans to help them stay connected with international customers and partners, whether at home or abroad. It’s the UK’s first plan for businesses to include unlimited calls and texts across the USA, EU and UK, plus generous 4G data allowances – 500MB of daily data, equivalent to 15GB a month – enable UK SMEs to focus on growing their businesses, rather than worrying about their bill. Additionally, our superfast 4G in over 50 countries enables businesspeople to work as they would from home.
5. Given the vastly increased movement of people and businesses around the world, is the introduction of Europe-wide roaming at no extra cost overdue?
What this really shows is how essential mobile technology is for British businesses that have international ambitions. That three quarters of the SMEs we surveyed said using mobile devices abroad as they do at home is important for how they operate, demonstrates the value it provides. Our research has shown that working abroad is crucial for Britain’s SMEs, and core to their growth plans. When they travel, businesses need to be able to take the office with them, so to speak, and mobile technology has a vital role to play in helping businesses do that.
6. Would a Brexit scenario threaten advances made in European data roaming for UK businesses?
It is because of the UK's membership of the EU, that BT and EE have been able to offer our customers lower charges, including inclusive roaming plans and data charges that are over 90 percent lower for Britons travelling on the continent.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”