03 October 2016

Digital technology is being widely used by companies located in the Gatwick Diamond according to the latest Business Barometer survey from the Gatwick Diamond Initiative.

Management teams are clearly recognising the benefits that digital technology brings. 

Two thirds of respondents said they have a digital champion within their organisation and 90% agreed that their executive team is engaged with digital business strategy.  More than half of respondents are investing in technology to improve their customers’ experience and 65% confirmed they are investing in technology to grow their existing business operations.

However, the survey also found that there are areas where the technology take-up could be improved.  For example, only 34% of respondents’ trade online using mobile payment systems and 16% use AI (Artificial Intelligence) software.

When it comes to digital skills, the picture in the Gatwick Diamond is also positive.  91% of respondents rated the quality of digital skill capabilities within their IT, Management, Safety and Security teams as excellent or good.  Furthermore, 85% of respondents felt the skills capabilities within their Customer Services, Communications, Marketing and PR areas were excellent or good. 

Good infrastructure is seen as part of the reason for the high take-up of digital technologies in the area.  The survey found that businesses are generally happy with the broadband speeds and mobile coverage across the Gatwick Diamond.  (16% of respondents felt poor broadband speeds were affecting their business and 12% regarded mobile coverage as an issue.)

The survey also looked at overall business confidence and found most companies cautiously optimistic.  64% of businesses expect to see turnover growth over the next six months and only 6% expect it to decrease.  44% of businesses also expect to expand their staffing levels.    

Unsurprisingly, uncertainty surrounding BREXIT is causing significant anxiety to some businesses too. When asked what their most pressing business-related concern was, one company stated that they may have no option other than to make staff redundant and set up operations in Benelux.  Another has said that the leave decision is a disaster.   However, other businesses are more pragmatic about BREXIT and have their attentions turned closer to home on issues such as the ongoing uncertainty about expansion at Gatwick Airport and how to achieve business growth. 

Only 28% of respondents stated that they have sought external finance to sustain or grow their businesses in the past three months.  One respondent said that a more diverse finance system is needed for small businesses, providing a better choice of credit products and services than currently provided by traditional high street banks.

Commenting on the survey, Jeff Alexander, Executive Director of the Gatwick Diamond Initiative, said: “These are positive findings as it is widely thought that there is a clear link between market competitiveness and the uptake and application of digital technology in the workplace.  I am pleased to see our latest survey show that companies located in the Gatwick Diamond have recognised the benefits of digital technology and are investing in these new ways of working to remain globally competitive.” 

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