04 June 2021

Transform with digital – key takeaways

Whatever the size of your business, the world you operate in is rapidly changing. COVID-19 showed how quickly businesses can adapt and implement new technology as they sought new ways to engage with staff, customers, suppliers and business partners. Maintaining that momentum to adapt to new opportunity is essential. Our panel of experts, including Barry Searle, Director at Intqual-pro, Roland Emmans, Head of Tech Sector at HSBC UK and Jordan Appleson, CEO of Hark Systems, looked at key tech trends, what they mean for your business, and how you can maximise these trends whilst keeping your business safe.

The world is already changing as a result, so if your business doesn’t embrace that, and look at what technology can do to help you transform, you risk becoming less and less relevant.

Roland Emmans, Head of Tech Sector at HSBC UK

1. Key trends and why businesses should embrace technology

“Recent years have seen what’s been termed the democratisation of technology,” says Roland. “That has made technology more accessible than ever. People can start and run global businesses from their spare room and solutions are available off the shelf. That creates a more competitive environment and is pushing innovation and uptake still further. And that’s one reason why businesses can’t afford to ignore technology.

“The other is that the fourth industrial revolution, the increase in automation, connectivity and data driven decisions, is already happening and the world is already changing as a result, so if your business doesn’t embrace that, and look at what technology can do to help you transform, you risk becoming less and less relevant.”

The pandemic has accelerated many of the trends that were already emerging, he continues. “Improving processes or customer or user experience through reimagining or transforming your business digitally has grown exponentially. There has also been increased usage and innovation around areas such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices and analytics, as we look at ways to work and live differently.”

And many of these trends can offer real benefit to SMEs, says Jordan. “SMEs are in a prime position to grasp the opportunities that IoT, enhanced connectivity and analytics can offer, because they’re more agile and able to move fast to get these solutions up and running. And then these solutions can drive business change and support growth.”

2. Making technology work for your business

“It can be easy to overthink or overcomplicate how technology can be used in your business, leading to analysis paralysis,” says Jordan. “But there’s a cost in not doing something too. Planning a roadmap of where you want to be and prioritising the low hanging fruit, or the areas where you can gain most value is a good place to start.”

It’s something Roland agrees strongly with. “Don’t try to boil the ocean,” he remarks. “Experiment and try things. If they work that’s great, but if they don’t, don’t be afraid to try something else.”

Roland shares his tips for helping businesses choose the technology they need and maximise the benefits it offers:

  • Think about your pain point – what is the issue you’re trying to solve?
  • Look around for different options for addressing that – an online search is a great start.
  • Once you’ve identified potential solutions, interrogate why you’re investing in this, what do you want to achieve, and is technology the right way to do it?
  • After you’ve identified the right solution, in order to maximise the benefits you need to:
    • Integrate the solution carefully and fully
    • Understand any process changes that are needed to accommodate the new technology
    • Bring people with you on the journey – help your team see the benefits of the technology rather than seeing it as a threat.

3. Understanding the benefits

Carefully selecting and optimising technology can bring numerous benefits for businesses. “It can be as simple as moving from a paper-based system to an app,” says Roland, “with all the benefits that offers in terms of processing time." He cites the example of a small construction business, where office staff had to wait for the teams to submit paperwork on which jobs they’d been on and for how long each Friday before running the payroll.

“An app now provides geolocating technology, so the head office knows where everyone is and for how long, and that feeds directly into an automated payroll system. The efficiency gains are incredible.”

That efficiency play is a major plus, reflects Jordan. “The enhanced connectivity from the IoT for example, delivers granular data that can inform decisions and increase responsiveness. Our own solutions are helping businesses to understand energy use, providing data in real time, which supports forecasting and identifies potential issues.”

By identifying these maintenance issues early, businesses can respond quickly, reducing downtime and enhancing user and customer experience. In an increasingly competitive world, that can make all the difference.

“Dynamic control of assets or buildings can boost efficiency, save costs and reduce carbon output,” adds Jordan. With the increasing focus on sustainability from customers, suppliers, regulators and investors, using technology to help your business achieve its net zero targets and improve its green credentials offers real opportunity.

“Being able to monitor and manage data is vital for businesses to be able to understand, track and report their carbon emissions,” says Jordan. “That’s becoming an increasing focus for stakeholders and for businesses to achieve compliance.”

Technology is a great enabler for businesses and for criminals, but there are simple things we can do to reduce our risk exposure as we increasingly use technology.

Barry Searle, Director at Intqual-pro

4. Managing the risk

Embracing technology offers significant potential rewards for businesses, but only if they understand and can take steps to mitigate the risk, says Barry. “Technology is a great enabler for businesses and for criminals, but there are simple things we can do to reduce our risk exposure as we increasingly use technology.”

Pointing out that almost half of all SMEs have no cyber security response plan, Barry explains that there are several reasons why they are a growing target. “Often smaller businesses will start with a foundation of technology and, as they grow, they add to that, so they’re running a number of disparate systems and software, all with their own vulnerabilities.” Combine that with time pressures and lack of a dedicated resource focusing on cyber security and it can be a toxic combination.

However, there are some simple steps that businesses should focus on, he says:

  • Understand and standardise your IT infrastructure, devices and applications.
  • Allow technology to make your people and assets more secure:
    • Automate software updates
    • Manage mobile devices – consider a bring your own device policy and install end point security
    • Make full use of antivirus/antimalware software
    • Use multi-factor authentication.
  • Consider the costs and benefits of new technology and consider security
  • Create a culture where people understand the risks and are open, where hovering over a link in an email is as second nature as looking right and left before crossing the road.

By making your business more resilient, you can go a long way towards mitigating the risk of cybercrime and be in a stronger position to secure the benefits that technology can deliver to help transform your business.

To find out more about how to get your business Tomorrow Ready, visit our Insights hub at https://www.business.hsbc.uk/en-gb/tomorrow-ready-programme

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