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Are SMEs getting their five a day?

London First’s Anzo Francis sets out five ways that SMEs in the capital can embrace digitisation to help boost their business and the wider UK economy.

Anzo Francis

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October 2018

The SME sector is significant to the UK economy with huge potential to grow through digitisation. In 2017 SMEs employed more than 16m people and annual turnover was c£2 trillion. Embracing digitisation would boost the wealth of SMEs and the economy.

Five digital building blocks are available to SMEs to transform their business model, innovate and grow:


Smartphones enable organisations to connect with stakeholders on different platforms and apps. This leads to more effective communication, smarter collaboration, knowledge sharing, innovation and improved results.

Cloud storage and software

Cloud storage is flexible and scalable. Organisations only rent the space needed, avoiding expensive fixed equipment. Cloud software offers flexibility and savings compared with onsite systems. Software is more up to date, the supplier delivers upgrades and fewer specialist internal staff are needed.

Internet of things (IoT)

IoT provides networks of monitoring devices (e.g. cars, smart meters, security cameras, heart monitors, phones and lighting) with sensors connected to the internet. Organisations can collect precise information on customer needs and respond with more tailored and targeted products or services.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI enables organisations to automate various routine tasks. Possibilities include tasks requiring empathy, recognition, care, emotion detection, appreciation of speed, voice or ambiguity. Chat bots can deliver customer service on messaging platforms, providing conversational interfaces. ‘Off the shelf’ tools are available, and organisations can develop AI assistants themselves without heavy investment or niche software development skills.


Robotics enables sophisticated machines to manipulate the physical world, carrying out physical tasks alongside human workers. Increasingly SMEs will be able to order robots off the shelf. Automation in factories is a long-term trend and robots such as Softbank Robotics’ Pepper are used in shops, banks and social care.

By harnessing the power of these five building blocks, SME business models will be transformed, taking place at smaller scale, in multiple locations, on the move and more collaboratively, accelerating innovation, profitability and growth.

Anzo Francis is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and Director of Finance and Operations at London First, the leading business membership organisation which aims to influence government policies and investment to support London’s and the UK’s global competitiveness. Anzo has worked in senior management roles across various sectors and is a committee member of the London Society of Chartered of Accountants (LSCA), the ICAEW IT Faculty and the LSCA Business Board.

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