Businesses flummoxed by outdated government services 

UK businesses report spending more than a working month a year grappling with outdated government digital services, according to a new study.

Business leaders estimate five hours could be saved each week if the services were brought in line with the types of modern application commonplace in the private sector, finds research by technology company EMC.

Some 62 per cent of respondents who access services online say that online services from government lack the ease of use and features commonplace with popular digital apps from Facebook to Amazon and beyond.

Businesses also demand additional digital services in key areas, including business support (39 per cent) such as government funding, and health and safety (34 per cent) including updates on the latest hygiene and safety regulations.

While online tax services see the heaviest use by UK businesses, it is voted as the area in most need of drastic improvement (31 per cent).

Over the next two years, businesses want to see such services as an online directory showing all available tax grants/breaks for businesses in one place (50 per cent) and personalised updates to changes in regulation/legislation (41 per cent).

Respondents also want to see an online system with the ability to generate all the information/requirements a business needs to set up in one place using personalised data local business rates (36 per cent). 

The study urges for the user experience to be prioritised to support business engagement with government online services. As an area for immediate improvement, half of business respondents request the option to speak to someone if they needed to.

Additional areas for improvement include simpler navigation and language (42 per cent) and proactive reminders when forms/payment are due (38 per cent).

Almost 40 per cent of UK businesses demand more online services in the business support area, which includes getting advice on key topics, including imports and exports, business funding and more, from the government.

The results suggest a new generation of digitally-savvy young business minds, with more than half (53 percent) of the overall proportion of those aged 18-34 calling for more online services in business support.

James Norman, public sector CIO of EMC UK and Ireland says, ‘There is an obvious demand for a more digitally-focused government and while some progress has been made with government digital services, there is still more that can be done in application transformation.

‘Businesses need a more efficient way of interacting with government and improving the accessibility of online services is one of them. Creating a digital foundation made of data and not paper will be critical for the business growth in the future.’

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation adds, ‘What is striking in this recent research is the high demand for more services in business support and this is even higher among the younger, digitally-savvy business community.

‘Government voucher programmes should replicate the success of Growth Vouchers, connecting small businesses with the advice and support they need via a simple online process. Looking ahead, it will need to be tailored for a time-starved, tech-savvy entrepreneur audience who are calling for smarter services and more personalised updates concerning regulations, tax or advice.’

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Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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