Small businesses waste weeks of productivity on IT

Half of UK businesses spend more than three weeks of the year on non-essential tasks such as IT, neglecting important day-to-day business tasks, according to new research.

The study fits with research previously reported by IT PRO that SMEs felt that they were losing out to big businesses due to their lack of IT and communication expertise. The earlier survey revealed that only 15 per cent of SMEs felt that they had an effective IT strategy and that it took too much time out of their core business tasks for them to really focus on what was needed.

Alastair Hirst, senior business marketer with BT, who commissioned the survey, said many small businesses don't have a dedicated IT manager. "A lot of them are using the 'somebody round the corner' type of approach," said Hirst.

"They cannot afford to have the luxury of a dedicated person so in that respect they are not going to have a dedicated IT strategy. If you were setting up a small business you would have different priorities to start with," he added.

Small businesses were also having problems with admin, spending two thirds of the year on these tasks, counting as a day and a half every week. More than half of small businesses were having problems with government legislation and regulation and nearly a quarter of companies thought that finance was their biggest worry.

BT claimed that the results showed that businesses needed to simplify the way they used IT and communications. "It sounds simple, but by bringing together fixed-lines and mobile phones with broadband, businesses can cut the number of suppliers they have to manage," said Bill Murphy, managing director of BT business.

"This not only reduces complexity, but also brings down cost, giving companies one bill, removing the headache of running a business and helping UK SMEs get back to doing what they do best," he said.

The poll was conducted by Vanson-Bourne amongst 435 businesses with less than 50 employees across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.