Vodafone: SMEs who digitalise will survive
Small businesses that adopt digital ways of working are more likely to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future, Vodafone research reveals.
Vodafone surveyed 1,200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across key European markets in the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy and found that companies adopting digital practices are more likely to have found new opportunities during the pandemic.
“In fact, the most digitised firms won new business at more than double the rate of the least digitalised,” said Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK.
“It was fascinating to learn how businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and how governments across Europe have responded to it. And it’s clear that going digital has made many small firms more resilient.”
She said the findings are backed up by Vodafone’s earlier paper, Future Ready Report, which showed that 44% of businesses expected the digital practices they had implemented in recent months to be permanent.
So given these findings, what is holding so many other small businesses back from embracing new digital technologies? Asks Sheehan.
“Nearly three quarters admitted that setting it all up is just too darn difficult – integrating existing tech and migrating important data to new systems, and so on,” she commented.
Call for government action
Vodafone thinks there is an important role for government to play by adopting a ‘digital adoption’ policy framework for SMEs that should do the following:
• Addresses the need to implement and promote high-speed connectivity
• Offers grants, vouchers or tax incentives to encourage SMEs to go digital
• Deliver additional one-stop-shop information and guidance resources
Support from Vodafone
“At Vodafone, we helped our SME customers in a number of ways, offering six months of free broadband and six months’ free use of Office 365, for example, as well as free one-to-one guidance and support from our V-Hub agents. And we’ve now followed that up with a £125 bill credit for customers buying business broadband.”
Mobile and broadband connectivity; cyber-security tools and advice; cloud-based hosting and data management are also offered by Vodafone customers along with their Business Unusual podcasts, hosted by Claudia Winkleman.
“As you can see, we are very well placed to help navigate SMEs through the tech maze, identifying the services and tools that are right for them.
“We have an opportunity to shape the economic recovery in a way that delivers sustainable, long-lasting change with impact. Investing in small businesses, and helping them achieve their full, digital potential, will ensure a stronger, future-proofed UK,” concludes Sheehan.
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.”