Image copyright AFP Image caption British workers are in short supply
Automating business processes is the biggest problem facing small businesses, according to a survey of bosses in the UK.
The survey, commissioned by Aviva, found 61% of small firms said lack of workers was the biggest concern.
Lack of space for growth ranked second, while lack of business investment ranked third.
The top three issues included staff recruitment, real estate and human resources, the Aviva survey of 1,000 firms found.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Lack of human resources was a big problem for small businesses, the survey found
Despite their top-three concerns, small firms are planning to hire on average across the next 12 months, with 51% of firms planning to increase their workforce.
Aviva said one reason for growth may be the wealth of tech-savvy and data-driven management talent on offer today – just as modern systems save money, they create opportunities for business growth.
Director of business solutions for Aviva UK & Ireland, Ben Cumming, said: “Budgets are tight but increasing business output isn’t always easy.
“Whether it’s finding the right talent, creating the right culture or managing higher wages, there’s a need for more technology and automation.”
UK small businesses are already set to be hit with a boost in business rates after the government raises them on 1 April next year.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption British business owners have plenty of alternatives in the financial technology (fintech) sector
Aviva is urging firms to get staff onboard with the benefits of online technology such as AI, so that they can help their businesses become more agile and efficient.
“Small businesses are the UK’s biggest employers, so it’s important they’re tapping into technologies to help them outperform the competition,” Mr Cumming said.
“From improved finance and accounting services through to innovative, cost-cutting artificial intelligence, software that helps workers do their jobs more efficiently can be a great way to bolster your productivity.”
What do you think?
Amanda Baid, consultant editor at the FT’s MoneyWeek, said big businesses have long moved beyond the obsession with saving time and costs, and looked instead at increasing profits through automation.
“Many modern small businesses have spent decades building their businesses so their employees are highly productive but their organisational structure and processes are less efficient,” she said.
“Automation can help your business to become more efficient; it’s not a shortcut to riches but, when properly managed, it can drive your business forward and create productivity benefits that can help your business thrive.”
Read a three-part BBC Scotland special, “Automation is Here”, about how big businesses are embracing technology to make their workforces more efficient
What others say
Small businesses in Scotland have access to workshops where they can be taught about the technologies available to help them create and deploy better automation.
That is as much down to government grants as large businesses, says website tools and services UKBusiness.co.uk.