Viewpoint | 26 Jun 2020

Small business needs to embrace new digital technologies fast

To mark the United Nations' International Day for SMEs [Small and Medium-sized Enterprises] Anne Sheehan, Director, Vodafone Business UK, explores the many ways Vodafone can help small businesses embrace the new digital, connected ways of working in the post-coronavirus economy.

The United Nations International Day for SMEs – or small businesses as they are commonly called – is a chance for us to reflect on how important they are to our economies and consider what more we can do to help them thrive in a post-coronavirus world.

There are more than five million small businesses in the UK – the solid bedrock of our economy – and many have suffered greatly during the pandemic as high streets closed and people reined in their spending. In response, many have had to embrace digital ways of working and learn new skills fast just to survive.

I’m proud to say that we’ve taken steps to help them during these challenging times, offering six months of free broadband as well as six months’ free use of Office 365 applications, for example.

And we pledged to pay our small suppliers within 15 days during the pandemic, in acknowledgement of the fact that cash flow is a huge issue for small businesses at the best of times, let alone during a major health crisis.

But we’re keen to do a lot more and use our technological experience to help SMEs not just survive but thrive in the ‘new normal’. We’ve shown how a big company with thousands of employees can become a ‘working from home’ company in just a few weeks. Until we re-opened our retail stores recently, around 94% of our workforce was working from home, using video-conferencing and webchat tools to talk to colleagues and customers.

New opportunities

According to European Union figures just 19% of UK SMEs sell online and 26% buy online, with just 10% of their turnover coming from e-commerce.

We believe these figures are far too low if SMEs are to prosper in the post-Covid world. So we are working on how we can support SMEs with the right insight and guidance, to allow them to get more out of technology, boost their digital knowhow and harness new opportunities. We will be announcing more soon.

If you’re worried about hackers and keeping your data safe, we can introduce you to our cyber-security tools, such as Lookout Mobile Security, and our data back-up service, Vodafone Cloud Backup. Our market-leading mobile and broadband packages will help you stay connected, and keep connecting, as we emerge from this difficult period.

We offer a range of Vodafone Business Unlimited plans, and add-ons, such as One Net Anywhere, Device Support, Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite. If your mobile signal is better than your fixed-line broadband in your area, we can help get you up to speed with our GigaCubes – turning 4G and 5G mobile signal into broadband Wi-Fi.

Our network is strong and resilient, so you can rely on us as a trusted partner who will help you establish your business online and make the most of what remote working and digital communications have to offer.

‘Scalable and fast’

New mobile technologies, like 5G, with its speed and increased capacity, will power a new, connected, flexible way of working. No longer will small businesses be tied to an office or retail premises, you’ll be free to take your virtual office with you wherever you want or need to be. This is the future of business – it’s digital, online, connected, scalable and fast.

Of course, you’ll need to bring your work colleagues along with you, and this will involve helping them to learn new skills, providing training and support. We can help with that, too.

But we also think Government needs to play its part in supporting this learning process. Skills gaps need filling, and fast.

If you run a small business, these have undoubtedly been tough times, but with the right digital platforms, connectivity and skills, I really believe you’ll come out of this stronger, more agile and primed for growth.

So my message today is that we’re here to help in any way can. We don’t have all the answers, but we can be there to give you confidence to take your business to the next level.


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