The Budget has included some funding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to invest in digital, giving the channel an opportunity to spur a conversation with customers about their strategic direction.
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that 130,000 SMEs would be given access to the Help to Grow scheme, which would give access to digital and management tools needed to innovate, grow and help drive recovery.
The pot for the Help to Grow scheme is £520m, but should provide some motivation for customers that had to shift to remote working during the coronavirus pandemic and want to make more permanent moves to embrace cloud.
Industry group TechUK gave the thumbs-up to the scheme, arguing that it would help many take more digital steps.
“TechUK particularly welcomes the creation of Help to Grow: Digital. This scheme, which we called for, will help thousands of SMEs to upgrade their capabilities and create new highly skilled jobs across the UK. Research by TechUK and our members have shown that this kind of support is in high demand, and we stand ready to do our part to ensure this scheme is delivered successfully,” said Julian David, CEO of TechUK.
One channel source said that the decision to support SMEs with funding that could be used on cloud came at a time when many firms had been forced to adopt hosted services. “This half a billion announced in the Budget will help SMEs move to the cloud,” said the source.
Nic Redfern, UK finance director of NerdWallet, said that it was good to see several schemes being launched that would benefit the SME community: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see a number of initiatives to help SMEs, including incentives to hire trainees and apprenticeships, a new visa system for people with high-level skills, and freezes on various taxes.”
Roei Haberman, head of telco, media and technology at NTT DATA UK, said that technology would play a pivotal role in any post-Covid 19 recovery, and it was a positive to see the government talking about digital.
But he sounded a warning about skilling up the workforce to really drive digital transformation forward.
“Looking ahead, the government needs to prepare the workforce for the digital economy of the future. We need even more action from government to ensure tech roles are accessible to everyone, from education right through to upskilling in the workplace,” he said.
That sense of concern about the lack of focus on digital skills was echoed by Aude Barral, co-founder of developer recruitment platform CodinGame.
“There wasn’t enough in the chancellor’s speech to address the digital skills gap. Digital upskilling should be at the forefront of the government’s plans to unlock the country’s full potential, as that’s where demand is going to be post-pandemic, in a fast-changing digital landscape,” she said.
“Businesses need to be continually updating their workers’ digital skills to remain competitive, and individuals need the help and support to identify the transferable skills they have and develop new skills to stand the best chance of finding a new job or career,” she added.