Is digital still a foreign language for businesses?

March 5, 2020

Asks Andrew Esson, Scaleup North East partner at RTC North

Advancements in digital technology are transforming how we do business. Yet, in the North East, there are still some companies using what is considered to be old or out-dated technology to run their operations.

So the big question is, in a world where technology, data, systems and processes are all being geared to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, further customer transparency, increase revenue, further productivity and generate profit; are we faced with a digital language barrier?

Scale Up North East has worked with more than 450 businesses across the North East region, and for those with less than 30 employees, many are unlikely to have a full-time, IT person in house. Typically, business owners are experts in their specific fields, and the world of tech can be an intimidating place. Acronyms like AI, VR, ERP leave many people feeling bewildered, confused and demotivated. People talk about big data and in reality, most businesses can’t do little data.

As a result, competitors can be quicker to respond and valuable opportunities are missed.

Tech adoption, like anything, requires knowledge, understanding and a clear return on investment to help assess its value. How can we support North East businesses that aren’t digitallyminded to ensure they don’t get left behind? Are we guilty of making the assumption all business owners understand digital? If we are, is it to our detriment?

If we look at companies that are not early adopters, we need to review what tech these businesses currently use, and determine where on the digital spectrum they are. We also need to understand where there is the need for further training and support.

Encouragingly, there is a growing recognition among scaling businesses that the trick is to ignore the jargon and focus on the business basics of using technology to improve competitiveness, productivity, strategic insight and, most importantly, profit.

For many businesses, the first step on this journey is to recognise that a robust integrated business system, underpinned by accurate data and a fully trained team, provides the bedrock on which other technology platforms can be built.

Within the Scaleup North East programme, we have supported a number of businesses, including Durham Filtration, Bignall Group, D-Line, Katmex Seaham and Tanfield Engineering Systems, to select and implement new computer systems.

If we are going to bridge the gap between early adopters and the late majority, we need to translate digital jargon and capabilities into something every business owner understands. Then, and only then, will we build the trust, understanding and connections North East businesses need to truly flourish and grow.

RTC North
If you are a scaling business that needs support in developing your digital strategy, contact Scaleup North East on, call 0191 516 4400 or visit

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