With government figures showing UK productivity running below the EU average, the new British Chambers of Commerce report has fuelled fears that British firms will struggle to compete in the global market unless they exploit e-business to the full.
At first glance, the results paint a reasonably positive picture of attitudes towards technology – 57% of companies believe e-business has had some impact on their business and the vast majority – 94% – believe it will have an impact in the future. But over half of small firms have failed to see an increase in sales leads from their web sites, despite in some cases significant investments to get online. A third of firms have failed to update their web site since it was set up.
The results also reveal that fear of crime remains a major obstacle in doing business electronically. Just over 60% of companies said they experienced computer-related crimes in the last year, with 93% of those firms suffering from virus attacks.
But only two-thirds have conducted a vulnerability assessment and only 37% have a policy of reporting computer-related crime to the police.
Sally Lowe, acting head of policy at the BCC, said government needed to do more to address complacency among UK business.
‘Smaller companies recognise that IT investment saves time and money but of the 42% who are not planning any new investment in IT, 80% believe their current IT facilities are adequate – that’s a concern.’
Broadband continues to be a major stumbling block, Lowe added. A BCC study conducted earlier this year found that significant numbers of businesses were being forced to relocate because of lack of broadband availability.
Alarmingly, 40% of small firms have not provided any IT training in the last two years.
The BCC is formulating a series of recommendations due to be presented later this year, which are expected to urge the government to provide more support to help firms make the most of technology.
Mark Oliver, managing director of Buildonline.com, a provider of software to the construction industry, said Government needed to support innovation and entrepreunialism to boost adoption of ebusiness technologies in the UK.
‘Adoption of technology is much more about culture. Many people look at the internet as a marketing tool whereas they should look at it as an efficiency tool. The market will drive demand for ebusiness. If the internet really does add value, companies will do it becuase it makes their business more profitable.’
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