Welsh businesses that have taken up superfast broadband and have invested in IT can boost their profitability and efficiency. Small changes can make big differences according to a number of inspirational SMEs who’ve used online technology to get ahead both locally and internationally.
The availability of superfast broadband has grown in Wales, with over eight out of ten premises now able to access it, compared with just over half in 2014. The Welsh Government also runs a voucher scheme for businesses, giving them the option of accessing ultrafast speeds.
Superfast Business Wales, backed by the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is working to ensure businesses capitalise on the growing availability of faster broadband. It works closely with organisations to offer in-depth and tailored advice and guidance through free workshops, one-to-one meetings and online support.
Business already benefiting include:
- Hope Rescue, Llanharan, Rhondda Cynon Taf: Hope Rescue is a digital-first independent Welsh charity that has embraced technology. For example, it’s using Facebook Workplace and has installed live video monitoring systems to protect the animals, particular pregnant dogs.
- Llety Cynin, St Clears, Carmarthenshire: Social media and digital marketing has played a huge role in the success of the 4* family-run B&B Llety Cynin. It’s in the middle of building an extension, including increasing the number of bedrooms and installing treatment rooms, a gym and fitness class rooms. After the expansion, it will be recruiting extra staff. One single digital marketing posting gained it bookings ‘from around the world’.
- Rhug Estate, Corwen, Denbighshire: The 6,700 acre multi-award winning organic farm also consists of a local produce food shop, bistro, and takeaway. With a turnover of £8.5m and 110 employees, the business’ social media and wider digital marketing strategy has helped raise brand awareness and increase footfall to the estate.
- Fit My Floor, Newport: A pair of enterprising brothers who placed Facebook at the heart of their business’ marketing activity are on course to almost double their turnover target in their first year of trading. It has just taken on two new members of staff, and has ambitious plans to open a second showroom in the next three years. Fit My Floor specialises in flooring solutions for domestic and commercial premises. Its creative social media approach has also resulted in Facebook accounting for 34 per cent of the business’ turnover.
- Apple Blossom Cleaning Services, Narberth, Commercial cleaning services firm that has not only improved productivity and efficiency by adopting digital technology, but has significantly increased its employees’ security. Apple Blossom Cleaning Services has introduced an app, suitable for mobiles and tablets, streamlining processes and slashing the time spent on everyday tasks. The app also tracks the location of its remote workers, helping to keep them safe when out and about on jobs.
Professor Tony Davies, Chair of the Superfast Broadband Business Exploitation Advisory Panel, said:
“Wales is ahead of the game in giving businesses the support they need to fully exploit the broadband infrastructure. We are in a position to compete meaningfully on a local and international stage and it is integral that we highlight the commercial benefits of superfast enabled technology and motivate more SMEs to capitalise on this opportunity.
“We have struggled to find a government that has a similar programme. It’s massively important because a digitally invested business community can drive profitability, growth, employment, new start-ups, and market opportunities for Wales.”
Another member of the panel, Christian Coates, has for many years been heavily involved in a number of programmes to help businesses succeed through the adoption of new technologies. The MD of Method4, a software and technology consultancy, and also co-chair of the strategically important Electronic Software & Technologies Network (ESTnet) for Wales said:
“Many Welsh businesses feel being progressive is in our blood and they’re hungry for the economic and commercial opportunities that superfast brings.
“Initiatives like Superfast Business Wales ensure Welsh businesses are provided with the support to embrace the digital change and prosper on a local, regional, national and international stage. We’ve seen a wide range of businesses access our programme, from a wool shop in Abergele that has attracted international visitors, to a floor fitting company in Newport that is on course to double its targeted first year turnover, and a men’s leather bag and accessories company exporting its products globally. Small changes bring big dividends as a number of inspiring Welsh businesses show.”
Initial research carried out by Cardiff University shows that take up of superfast broadband had a positive impact on businesses, along with investing in IT and digital skills. A second survey is due to be carried out and Superfast Business Wales is calling on businesses to take part.
Professor Max Munday, who leads the research in his role as director of the Welsh Economy Research Unit (WERU) at Cardiff University, said:
“Every business, no matter how large or small, can gain commercial benefits from superfast enabled digital technologies. Our mission is to support the hard-working and dedicated organisations to not only show the opportunities available, but guide them through how to use the technology to benefit their business.”
“By this time next year, we are aiming to build a digital map of Wales. This will help fill the intelligence void around how firms use superfast enabled technologies in the region, and our findings will help steer policy to assist them. Through more companies taking part in the survey, we will be able to continue to identify and understand emerging business needs and technologies. We want to collaborate with the Welsh business community and are really interested in speaking to any company who would like to take part in our ‘digital health check’. They can do so by emailing RocheND1@cardiff.ac.uk.”