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New survey highlights productivity failings of UK SMEs

Much has been written about the UK’s worryingly low productivity levels. Adding grist to the mill is a new survey from Nuance, which shows that when it comes to investment in office productivity solutions, small and

Steven Steenhaut,  Senior Director of  Marketing EMEA,  Global Marketing,  Nuance  Communications
Steven Steenhaut,
Senior Director of
Marketing EMEA,
Global Marketing,

medium-sized businesses in the UK are lagging behind their counterparts in Germany and France. A new study by the speech recognition and document management company, Better technology, greater efficiency, shows that the adoption of both PDF and speech recognition technologies is significantly higher on the continent than over here. The proportion of businesses with fewer than 50 employees that use PDF technology is 92% in Germany, 86% in France and just 71% in the UK. The respective figures for speech recognition solutions are 14%, 6% and 4%. Perhaps as a result, the proportion of SMBs that spend more than five hours a day working on text-based documents is significantly higher in the UK than in Germany and France (14%, 10% and 9% respectively).

Limited use

Although the take-up of PDF software appears to be high, Steven Steenhaut, Senior Director of Marketing EMEA, Global Marketing at Nuance Communications, warns that many businesses will be using only the most basic functionality. “A lot of people have PDF software, but we have to be careful what that means,” he said. “There is a strong likelihood that many will only have a PDF reader installed, which allows them to open the PDF but not to edit or convert it.” Low awareness of PDF features is partly the result of familiar problems faced by SMEs, including not having the time (41%) or money (52%) to learn about and invest in appropriate technology. In addition, almost one third (32%) of respondents only review their software requirements every year or more. Steenhaut adds that the software industry itself is also partly to blame for poor PDF implementation. “We as an industry are doing a lousy job of explaining the advantages of PDF or at least educating people in how to make the best use of this investment,” he said

Wasted time

We as an  industry  are doing a  lousy job of  explaining  the  advantages  of PDF...
We as an
are doing a
lousy job of
of PDF…

Four out of five SMEs surveyed believe that their business could be made more efficient in certain areas, including the management, creation and editing of text documents. In fact, almost twice as many respondents believe they waste time working on documents as complain about time wasted travelling to meetings (13% compared to 7%). “SMBs state that they are losing a lot of time working with documents, losing documents, having to re-create documents and managing the communication flow in business. Some even state they are losing much more time managing documents than, for example, travelling to meetings, which is a surprise. You would think it would be the other way round,” said Steenhaut.

Streamlining processes

So how can PDF software help SMBs improve their document processes? “PDF software can help streamline the document flow in companies in terms of security and ease of use,” said Steenhaut. “For example, when you receive a form, using PDF software you can edit it and immediately fill in the form on your PC instead of having to print out the document, fill it in by hand and then scan it in again.” He adds that PDF software also brings big benefits to document filing and retrieval. “We have a case study of a legal company that switched from filing paper documents in metal cabinets and started using PDFs to store documents electronically instead. This allowed them to get rid of all their paper storage, which freed up a lot of office space – and at the time they were short of office space. They saved £60,000 by doing that. Secondly, because PDFs are searchable, based on indexing keywords in the document, they are easier to retrieve. Last but not least, PDFs can be made completely secure through encryption software,” he said.

Voice processing

Another Nuance solution that can help SMBs save time when dealing with documents is Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. “The reasons are three-fold,” explains Steenhaut. “First, it’s three times faster to speak than type – even if you are a good typist; second, by definition you are not making any spelling mistakes; and third, speech recognition also allows you to stay productive when you are mobile or on the road through the use of dictation devices like an iPhone or digital recorder.” He added: “The typical markets where speech recognition is already well embedded, namely the legal or healthcare sectors, have seen their revenue increase in an important way thanks to speech recognition, as it gives them more time to do other things e.g. cold calling to find new customers or additional marketing activities. It frees up time that can be invested in other activities.” For time-starved SMBs any technology that can improve productivity is worth a closer look.

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