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Dated online government services holding back SME productivity

Out-of-date digital government services are resulting in UK firms spending more than one working month a year getting to grips with old technology, according to a new study by technology company EMC.

British business owners estimate as many as five hours a week could be saved if the government’s digital services were brought in line with features commonplace with the most popular digital apps like Amazon and Facebook.

The report found that certain business areas required additional digital services more than others with business support (39 per cent) such as government funding, and health and safety (34 per cent) including updates on the latest safety and hygiene regulations.

Online tax services are the most used government services by UK firms but, ironically, it is voted as the area in most drastic need of revamping (31 per cent).

During the next two years, businesses have stated their desire to see such services as an online directory displaying all available tax grants and breaks in one place (50 per cent) and personalised updates regarding relevant changes in regulation and legislation (41 per cent).

Survey respondents also wish to see an online system that generates all the information and requirements a business needs to set up in a single location using relevant business rates data (36 per cent).

One area for immediate improvement, mentioned by half of business owners, was the ability to request a one-to-one conversation with someone if they needed to. Additional areas for refinement include simpler navigation and terminology (42 per cent) and proactive reminders when official forms or business payments are due (38 per cent).

James Norman, public sector CIO, EMC UK and Ireland, said: “There is an obvious demand for a more digitally-focused government and while some progress has been made with government digital services, there is still more that can be done in application transformation.

“Businesses need a more efficient way of interacting with government and improving the accessibility of online services is one of them.

“Creating a digital foundation made of data and not paper will be critical for the business growth in the future.”

Emma Jones, founder, Enterprise Nation, reveals the demand for improved business support services from the Government is highest with the younger, more digitally-savvy business demographic.

“Government voucher programmes should replicate the success of Growth Vouchers, connecting small businesses with the advice and support they need via a simple online process,” said Jones.

“Looking ahead, it will need to be tailored for a time-starved, tech-savvy entrepreneur audience who are calling for smarter services and more personalised updates concerning regulations, tax or advice.”

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