2020 was a year defined by uncertainty, but the path ahead for businesses is now a little more illuminated.
The end of last month saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveil a step-plan for emerging from the third national lockdown, reopening the UK economy and, ultimately, returning to some kind of business-as-usual.
On the news, businesses were able to begin planning their post-pandemic roadmap (any kind of planning beyond a week ahead has been a rare luxury). For the majority of enterprises, investing in technology will be high up on that agenda, and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
A new appetite for technology
The last 12 months have shown just how crucial information technology now is for businesses to both function remotely and in meeting customer demands. From Zoom video chats to e-commerce fulfilment software, those quick to embrace digital solutions and make them central to their business are those that survived, thrived, and will lead the pack when a new status quo emerges.
A growing appetite for technology in crisis-time has accelerated the tech industry’s growth. According to Tech Nation, 10% of all current UK job vacancies are now for tech jobs. Industry body Technology Connected, meanwhile, said the use of automation, robotics, and AI has grown by a massive 30% since March 2020.
There’s a message of urgency here: technology is now central to both individual enterprise growth, and that of the UK economy, and that came through in the government’s Spring Budget announcement this week which will open up the playing field for tech investments and tech talent recruitment, as we emerge into the… ‘new normal’ (ugh, we had to say it eventually).
That’s because while many organisations have invested heavily in new tech since the pandemic, many business owners still lack the right tools to thrive longer-term in new, hybrid ways of working.
Spring Budget puts tech first
Among news of furlough extensions and inevitable tax increases; arts and sports injections; allowances for vaccine rollouts and mental health support, and a lot more, allocations for tech initiatives peppered a fundamentally pro-digital Budget.
One of these was a move to lower the barrier to entry for technology investments, with a plan to introduce an online platform serving as a dedicated hub for free advice to businesses on using technology, and more quickly gain the benefits of saved time, reduced costs and reach to more customers.
Packaged into the Budget’s £520 million Help to Grow scheme, small businesses will be able to get impartial advice on how technology can boost their performance, helping a huge number of smaller businesses to overcome awareness barriers holding them back from productivity increases offered by technology.
Eligible businesses will also get discounts on the costs of approved software that enables them to build customer relationships, increase sales, sell online, or manage finances digitally.
A separate branch to the scheme will enable 30,000 small business leaders to access a near-fully subsidised 12-week course that combines a practical curriculum with direct mentorship, up until 2024. The aim is to equip participants with a tailored business growth plan focused on financial management, innovation, and digital adoption.
Alongside the right tech – and fostering the nouse to use it to drive business growth – the Spring Budget 2021 also sought to ensure an in-flow of tech talent into the UK, in order to help the country maintain its standing as a world tech leader, even after its departure from the European Union.
A new fast-track visa will help fill the UK’s widening tech skills gap post-Brexit and promises to simplify bureaucracy for global talent heading to the country.
Technology has helped us ride out a pandemic that’s dismantled the normal way of working. But the last year has only fast-tracked a trend of digital adoption that’s been taking place for decades. We won’t see reliance on technology fade, in fact, the long-term success of individual companies and the economy at large hinges on implementing digital solutions that drive and scale business operations and activity.
As we countdown to June 21st and plan our roadmaps out of lockdown, illumo digital is ready to work closely with your team to ensure you have the tools and support to thrive in… ah, fine… the new normal.
Talk to us about your plans today.