Improving digital capabilities is top priority for 60% of UK family businesses

Most UK family businesses want to improve their digital capabilities first, according to a report from PwC

The top priority for family businesses is to improve their digital capabilities, with 60 per cent ranking it in first place.

The UK Family Business Outlook study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, surveyed 2,081 key decision makers at family businesses.

Over half (53 per cent) want to introduce new products and services and 47 per cent want to increase their use of new technologies.

Research shows that only 14 per cent of UK family businesses have a ‘fixed’ strategy where a strong capability is already in place. ‘Digital capabilities’ is the term used to describe the skills and attitudes needed by individuals and organisations for today’s digital business world.

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“In 2020, the winners were those who already had an online presence,” says Suzi Woolfson, a private business partner at PwC. “As consumers, we’re never going back to ‘store only’. So, digitisation is happening from the front office to the back office. During Covid-19, we’ve seen stop gaps created but there’s a long way to go to digitise all of these processes.”

A lot of energy has been spent on survival during Covid-19 – finding a way through and planning for the future. Now businesses can get back to focusing on strengthening their workforce and operations.

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Coming up short on sustainability strategies

UK family businesses are also falling behind other countries in prioritising sustainability in their strategies. More than half (53 per cent) of UK family businesses believe they have an environmental responsibility to fight climate change and its related consequences. However, only a third (33 per cent) have developed and communicated a sustainability strategy compared to the global average of 37 per cent. The survey reveals that 79 per cent of respondents in mainland China, 78 per cent in Japan and 49 per cent globally are ‘putting sustainability at the heart of everything we do’ compared to 39 per cent in the UK.

Hannah Harris, PwC UK Family Business leader, said:

“A commitment to a wider social purpose has always gone hand in hand with family business in the UK, but there is growing societal pressure from employees and business stakeholders to demonstrate more meaningful action around sustainability and wider ESG issues.

“Listed companies have started to respond, but our survey shows that UK family businesses have a more traditional approach to social contribution such as contributing to the local community or philanthropy. It is on family business to adapt to these expectations or they risk creating a potential business risk.”

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Anna Jordan

Anna is Senior Reporter, covering topics affecting SMEs such as grant funding, managing employees and the day-to-day running of a business.