More than a million small businesses lack basic digital skills
According to the latest UK Business Digital Index, over a million (23 percent) small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) still lack basic digital skills. The Index from Lloyds Bank, in association with Accenture and digital skills charity Go ON UK, measures and tracks the level of digital ability among SMEs and charities.
An overall rise in the UK Index score suggests a slow but positive shift towards small to medium sized enterprises becoming more digitally active. However there are still over a million SMEs (23 percent) that lack basic digital skills.
This is even more significant in the charity sector where 58 percent of charities don’t have the necessary skills, an increase of 3 percent from 2014. Having basic digital skills includes activities such as running a website, using e-commerce or maintaining a social media presence. The charities at the lowest end of the spectrum also reported an increase in doubts as to how websites (78 percent) or social media (83 percent) could help increase their funding.
Challenges also remain around the perceived benefits of being digital, with one-quarter of all organisations believing digital is irrelevant’ to them while more worryingly a similar number (27 percent) still believe that they have already done everything they can to embrace the digital economy.
The report has also established a strong link between digital maturity and organisational success, with the most digitally mature SMEs a third more likely and charities two times more likely to see an increase in turnover or funding in the last two years compared with the least digitally able organisations.
Lloyds Bank is encouraging businesses and charities to embrace digital and online as a founder partner of Go ON UK, a charity that supports businesses and charities in making the leap online. Baroness Martha Lane Fox chair of Go ON UK said that the research is a great step forward:
“There are a lot of interesting things in the report, but one piece of data that I was really pleased to see was the focus on the North East and the North West, areas that GO On UK and the partners have particularly delivered in over the last year, which has led to a significant increase in those areas. The second thing that it was really great to see in the report was the overall lift in the numbers for small and medium sized businesses from 75 percent-77 percent nationally.”
The attitudes of small to medium sized enterprises and charities becoming more digital has revealed a quarter (25 percent) of organisations believe digital is ‘irrelevant’ to them while more worryingly a similar number (27 percent) still believe that they have already done everything they can. Most notably, time appears to have become even more precious, as the number using this reason as a barrier increased by almost a half from last year’s survey from 14 percent to 20 percent.
Miguel-Ángel Rodríguez-Sola, Group Director for Digital, at Lloyds Banking Group said: “The UK Business Digital Index provides a crucial measure of how UK small businesses and charities are adopting digital technology and we are extremely proud to be able to offer this insight and establish a strong link between digital skills and organisational success. In just one year it is pleasing to see that over 100,000 more small businesses in the UK now have basic digital skills.
“But what is also clear is that real challenges remain – over a million small businesses and charities still lack basic digital skills and the perceived benefits of being digital remain. For example 25 per cent of all organisations surveyed believe digital is ‘irrelevant’ to them. We cannot emphasis enough the benefits that digital adoption can offer – such as saving time, increasing revenue or funding or reaching wider audiences. Digital is the key to unlock these benefits.
“Even if an organisation does not believe they need to be online, many of their customers already are. There needs to be further awareness to give charities and businesses the confidence to do more online.”
Considering that e-commerce only features amongst 13 percent of organisations with a website, the struggle felt by charities and SMEs to fully embrace the use of digital technology suggests organisations still don’t understand how to utilise the power of digital beyond the basics.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”