Half of senior managers believe Covid-19 has been ‘good’ for business, according to a survey conducted by Cloud9 Insight.

The Effect of The Pandemic on  SMEs: How Businesses are  Putting Their Trust in Technology

Overview

Businesses that have a strong technology base appear to have fared well during the pandemic, with more than half of leaders saying it has been ‘good’ for business. Leaders have learned a lot about their businesses during the pandemic. For instance, many now feel more confident about their technology base than before the crisis began. Also, there is the somewhat surprising view that, for a slim majority of respondents to this survey, the pandemic has actually been good for business.

Respondents

An online survey of senior decision-makers including CEOs, managing directors, directors, and other senior managers was conducted.

Key Highlights

  • 72% became more confident in their use of their business technology during the first UK lockdown.
  • 64 % described their sales and marketing processes as ‘integrated’ or ‘seamlessly integrated’.
  • 54% said that their technology roll-out was not accelerated in the past year.
  • 45% increased the pace of their technology plans.
  • 51% said the pandemic had been good for business.

Business or Consumer

The survey first asked: does your organisation serve businesses, consumers, or both? It found that 13.7% served consumers, 49% served businesses only, 37% served both businesses and consumers.

Integration

Respondents suggest there is a high level of integration in their business systems. When asked: How well-integrated would you say your sales and marketing processes are with the rest of the business? 19.6% chose the option ‘seamlessly integrated’, 45.1% replied ‘integrated’, 27.45% ‘not well integrated’ and just 7.84% ‘not integrated’.

Systems

The survey explored what systems and software programmes businesses used to manage relationships. Most (58%) used ‘off the shelf systems’ such as Microsoft Dynamics of Salesforce. A quarter (25%) used their own or bespoke systems. However, a small number (12%) still used manual systems such as spreadsheets and paper. Whereas 4% said they had no system or current process to manage customer relationships.

 

CRM survey BTN Cloud9 Insight SMB SME

Improving client communication and relationships

Businesses often stress the importance of communication and relationships and many hope to improve these areas in the year ahead. The pandemic has posed challenges to both and technology has often been regarded as the answer. Better systems such as CRM are clearly part of the solution. Respondents were asked to choose from a list of all options they felt applied to their business when asked the question: How do you plan on improving client communication and relationships in 2021?

 Here are the top 3 answers:

Activities post-pandemic

As we look ahead to a world post Covid-19 it is interesting to consider what activities businesses believe they will be doing to stimulate growth and have the ‘biggest impact on the bottom line.’

In general, businesses see the main drivers of growth from activities such as sales, marketing, and winning new clients. The re-emergence of face-to-face meetings was also mentioned by respondents, as were events.    

 In terms of which activities most impacted on growth, there was a range of answers. The biggest group related to sales and marketing, although how that was communicated varied from business to business. Some spoke of the importance of converting leads, others a more effective pipeline. Whereas some mentioned the importance of marketing messages or simply marketing.  

However, a number of respondents suggested internal factors as being the main key to growth. Company culture and staff retention were also cited as highly important by the business leaders in this survey. 

Cloud technology

For many businesses, cloud technology has been critical to success during the pandemic. Although some businesses were already very advanced in terms of their use of cloud-based systems and related work patterns such as working from home (WFH). Respondents were asked the question: Did Covid-19 accelerate your plans to implement or improve cloud technology?

Of the respondents, 45% replied ‘yes’ and 55% ‘no’. This suggests an already high degree of usage of cloud technology and therefore readiness for the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Effect of the pandemic

The overall effect on GDP of the pandemic has been severe. However, this does not mean that all business have suffered. Those with the right systems, technology, business models and company culture have been able to adapt and survive, or even thrive, in what are considered by many to be challenging circumstances. Therefore we asked: Has the pandemic been good or bad for your business performance?

By a slim majority (52%) most chose the ‘good’ option, 29% said neither but just 19%  said ‘bad’.

Further evidence of the readiness of companies to handle the crisis of 2020 was reflected in the replies to the next question: Has the pandemic increased or decreased your use of cloud technology? Here, a slim majority (52%) chose the option ‘neither’. Considering the government has mandated WFH for many, this seems to be a clear indication that many businesses were already working in a highly flexible manner. Although 50% of respondents did say their use of cloud technology had increased.  

 

Confidence in tech 

Business technology and systems have been put to the test during the pandemic. The survey asked:  During the first lockdown, did the use of technology increase your confidence in running your business?

The results showed a clear pattern of confidence in technology increasing during the first lockdown, with 72% replying ‘yes’, and just 13% answering ‘no’, with the same number answering ‘don’t know’.  

Business leaders have learned a great deal in the past year. They were asked to provide tips for other business leaders with the following question. ‘From your own experience, what would be your tips for using innovation with technology for surviving and thriving during the pandemic?’ 

The importance of the use of technology, systems and cloud was mentioned directly by many respondents. But also cultural aspects associated with cloud technology such as flexibility and collaboration.

In conclusion, the past year has been a testing time for businesses but some have shown themselves to be either very capable of adapting or were working in such a way as only relatively minor adaptions needed to be made. There have been winners and losers in the business world and those who embrace cloud technologies, integrated systems such as CRM, and have cultures that reflect the use of these approaches have fared best.