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Small businesses aren’t fully embracing the technology that could help them run more efficiently because they don’t know how to use it or where to go for help.

An annual survey of over 4,000 businesses in London by Business Link for London, revealed that businesses as a whole are increasingly incorporating technology into their everyday operations, but small businesses are lagging behind.

While three-quarters of the businesses interviewed reported that they use e-business technologies, 27 per cent said they lacked the relevant skills to fully exploit IT. Most of these were small, micro businesses with fewer than five employees.

A lack of resources and staff with specialist IT knowledge played a part in the slow uptake of technology. But most owners said the main thing holding them back was not knowing where to go for help.

Only one in five owners had used any source of e-business advice, despite almost half citing that such support would be beneficial to their business. One third had no idea where to go for IT advice.

The need for greater help with e-business was a concern for businesses of all sizes, despite a dramatic increase over the past 12 months of the number of companies starting to use technology and switching to broadband internet connection.

The survey looked at the use of all forms of e-business technology from stand-alone accounting or stock management software to fully-integrated technologies where a business’s full production cycle is computerised and online procurement levels for public sector contracts.

Judith Rutherford, chief executive of Business Link for London, said it was key that businesses of all sizes continue to be encouraged to utilise e-business into their operations and that the support for that to happen is made readily available.

To ensure that this happens, Business Link for London, which worked with approximately 85,000 companies last year, will look to strengthen its brand and reach over the next 12 months, Rutherford said. While the research covered only the London area, it is thought Business Link will adapt a similar strategy nationwide.

“The results from the e-business survey demonstrate the important part e-business technologies are now playing in the marketplace and to that end, there is a rising premium placed on e-business skills,” said Rutherford.

“It is clear that London businesses are missing out by not seeking independent advice to enhance their knowledge of ebusiness technologies. Access to appropriate IT skills can help organisations maximise their use of technologies, which will impact on the bottom line.”

The survey also revealed that while more businesses had taken notice of the growing threat of viruses and other IT attacks, one in five businesses still weren’t updating their virus protection software. Again, the majority of this 20 per cent were small businesses.

For more information on how Business Link can help your business, visit www.businesslink.gov.uk.

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