Whether it was royal weddings, sporting endeavours or record-breaking weather, 2018 was a year of big news stories in the UK. But it was also a time of economic uncertainty, with many businesses (particularly SMEs) facing some difficult challenges, created by a number of wide-ranging factors. But what many of them have in common is that they were tackled with the help of telecoms.
Economic and political uncertainty was rife
There’s no denying that 2018 was frequently an unsettling time for UK businesses, with Brexit negotiations ongoing and no real end in sight. Chancellor Philip Hammond openly admitted uncertainty around Britain’s departure from the EU has damaged economic growth. This is because many businesses are keen to wait until details of the transition are secure before investing or committing to long-term plans. Though it makes sense to be cautious, it does mean businesses have found it difficult to successfully predict their own profit and growth.
To help them budget effectively and grow without significant financial investment, some businesses looked to more flexible, scalable services. For example, many have shifted to easily scalable cloud-based solutions like hosted telephony. This has given organisations the ability to grow their operations and meet demand, without large up-front capital investment and without being tied in should they face a downturn in the future.Poor productivity continued to bite
The UK’s productivity crisis has been ongoing since the last recession, but combined with economic uncertainty, it became a particular problem in 2018. As the Financial Times puts it, achieving productivity growth is the way ‘nations become richer, living standards rise and governments have the resources to improve public services’ – so solving the productivity crisis is crucial not just for SMEs, but all businesses.
Fortunately, unlike Brexit uncertainty, productivity is an issue that businesses can easily tackle at an individual level. For example, some have strived to improve productivity by introducing a clear mobility strategy, empowering staff to work wherever and whenever suits them best. Meanwhile, investing in robust data services can support modern, data-hungry business applications like video conferencing and file sharing, which is often used to help workers carry out vital tasks efficiently and communicate effectively with customers from anywhere in the world.
Unpredictable weather woes impacted the economy
England making the World Cup semi-final was by no means the only unpredictable occurrence of 2018. In March, an extreme weather event known as the ‘beast from the east’ swept across the nation – and analysts calculate it cost the economy at least £1bn a day. For small businesses, losing even a day of worker time can be catastrophic, especially if customer service diminishes as a result.
Fortunately, with more businesses embracing flexible and remote working, most now have the communications infrastructure in place to support employees working from home. As a result, many office workers were able to remain productive, even during the worst of the weather. As for those who didn’t have the tools in place to support flexible working, it’s likely that many will now be investing in preparation for future weather events.
Telecoms are key to navigating business challenges
Despite the breadth of challenges experienced throughout 2018, one thing is clear: the right communications platforms have the power to assist with a full range of business issues. The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently – whether that’s with customers or between colleagues – is vital to all businesses. So, while it isn’t possible to predict the challenges of the year ahead, it is reassuring to know that in many cases, telecoms can assist with overcoming them.