A recent study has revealed that around one in five businesses are still lacking in basic digital skills. Whilst there has been a consistent increase in technological capabilities overall, around 1.4 million small businesses continue to fall significantly behind in digital proficiency.
The Business Skills Index is calculated annually and assesses five basic digital capabilities of small businesses and charities: skills in finding, managing and storing digital content and information; skills in communicating and collaborating online; practices of online purchasing and using government digital services; skills in creating digital content and taking part in online communities; and the use of digital tools to solve problems and find solutions.
The 2016 index revealed that just over three in five (62%) of small businesses met all five of the criteria, an overall increase of 9% from 2015. In particular, the use of government online services increased from 57% last year to 79% this year. However, this still leaves 21% of small businesses not using these online services, which could cause problems further down the line as HMRC makes the move to requiring all returns to be filed digitally.
Looking at the index in more detail reveals further insights. The amount of small businesses using cloud accounting more than doubled in the past twelve months, rising from 14% in 2015 to 34% in 2016. Mobile payments have also taken off considerably with 35% of the survey sample using this technology. Internet banking is now used by 82% of small businesses.
With the key reason behind the lack of digital skills being the inability to invest either the time or money needed to develop them, many small businesses clearly do not see becoming technologically capable as a sound investment. However, there is a strong case for a correlation between digital maturity and success in business, as the index found that 20% of businesses considered to be digitally skilled have seen an increase in turnover in the past year.
Carrying out an audit of digital skills in your own company is therefore likely to be worthwhile, not only to see where your business’ strengths and weaknesses lie, but also to plan where to spend time and money in bringing them up to scratch in order to reap the profits further down the line.