SMBs Ditch Foreign Travel For Tech Alternatives

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Bad news for airlines, as businesses cut back on expensive foreign travel and explore alternative communication technologies

More evidence has emerged that businesses are cutting back on expensive foreign travel, after a new survey revealed that many SMBs (small and medium sized businesses) are instead making use of alternative communication technologies.

According to a Skype-commissioned survey of 1,200 SMBs in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Russia, two fifths (or 41 percent) of UK SMBs are opting instead to use instant messaging (IM) as their number one preferred alternative to business travel.

Other alternative communication methods include Skype (40 percent), teleconferencing (34 percent) and video conferencing (28 percent). And it seems that the era of video conferencing may finally be arriving, as nearly half (49 percent) of SMBs in the UK are planning to increase the amount video based communication is used for business.

A clear majority (59 percent) confirmed video-based communication is being used as a direct replacement for business travel.

carbonoffsetting2.jpg

Reflecting the international nature of business today, nearly one in four (24 percent) UK small businesses said they communicate with international colleagues on a daily basis. And over half (54 percent) admitted that they, or their employees, had travelled to unnecessary face-to-face meetings abroad. This resulted in them exploring alternative communication methods and cutting out costly journeys.

Many SMBs however remain convinced that good old fashioned email remains the most effective way of communicating (two thirds or 65 percent); followed by voice calls (39 percent), video calls (36 percent) and Skype (29 percent).

Somewhat surprisingly, Instant Messaging was quite ranked low (17 percent) as an effective communication technology, despite IM being cited as the preferred communication alternative to business travel.

“With the obvious cuts in business travel, companies need to find new ways to communicate, collaborate and compete,” said Stefan Oberg, VP of Skype for Business. “Without regular face to face meetings, tools that enable people to build and maintain trusted relationships, save time and money, and keeping companies ahead of the game, are key. It’s no surprise that video based communication is experiencing a meteoric rise. The only thing to watch out for are the simple faux pas most of us have heard of. Forgetting to mute your microphone or switch off your webcam when working from home in your pyjamas are common blunders we would all rather avoid!”

Indeed, it seems that remote working can have its drawbacks, with 38 percent find it a challenge to communicate outside of their local time zone, and 36 percent saying that miss having a real picture of the person that they are dealing with. Other drawbacks to remote working also included email response delays (31 percent) and boring conference calls (22 percent).