Silicon In Focus Podcast: Skills for Success

Silicon UK

A new report reveals 77% of SME leaders do not have the skills required to successfully implement new technology into their businesses.

The Open University (OU) has jointly published a report with Be the Business titled Skills for Success: supporting business leaders with digital adoption. The research involved surveying 1,500 business leaders of SMEs from across the UK and listening to the experiences of businesses that have needed to make drastic changes to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic.

COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of collaboration and e-commerce software, for example, in more than half (54%) of UK SMEs. Of the business leaders who adopted new technology or accelerated its use due to COVID-19, at least 85% plan to continue using it at the same level once restrictions are fully lifted.

Large companies have the resources, often at an integrated departmental level, to deliver skills and training, and successfully adopt the technology. However, as many as 30% of business leaders surveyed said time and cost can make digital adoption too expensive and too time-consuming.

On the other hand, the report found that even without dedicated resources, many small- and medium-sized businesses have shown themselves to be flexible and resilient around digital skills and training, with 70% of business leaders expressing an interest in some form of learning and development in the next 12 months.

The report’s other key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of business leaders (67%) say they are confident in adopting technology, although only half (54%) think they make good purchasing decisions about technology.
  • Business leaders value basic digital skills (33%) or technical understanding of technologies (20%) ahead of the leadership skills required to successfully implement technology (12%).
  • One-fifth (21%) of all business leaders don’t think adopting technology could have a positive impact on their business at all.


Jane Dickinson, Digital Skills Lead at The Open University
Jane Dickinson, Digital Skills Lead at The Open University.

Jane is the Digital Skills Lead at The Open University. Working with various teams across the University, Jane is passionate about creating digital skills solutions to help organisations develop their digital talent.

Most recently, Jane has created a number of digital retraining programmes, which aim to bridge skills gaps and enable individuals to access in demand jobs with local employers. She previously worked as a Senior Manager for CompTIA, the global IT industry association, and has worked in the IT training field for over 25 years.

Anthony Impey MBE, CEO at Be The Business
Anthony Impey MBE, CEO at Be The Business.

Anthony is the Chief Executive of Be the Business, which is supporting leaders of small businesses to boost their performance, competitiveness, and productivity. By developing and driving initiatives led by business, for business, the organisation is working on a business-led recovery with the support of government.

As a serial entrepreneur and experienced business leader, Anthony has a track-record in starting, building, and operating businesses and not-for-profit organisations in the tech and skills sectors.  He is chair and board member of several leading public sector and not-for-profit organisations including chair of the City & Guilds Industry Skills Board and advisory board member of the Institute of Coding.