BUDGET cuts, time constraints and environmental concerns have led a quarter of SMEs to swap overseas business travel for alternative means of communication, according to an independent survey by Skype.
Although nearly one in four (24 per cent) UK small businesses communicate with international colleagues on a daily basis, over half (54 per cent) confirm that they or their employees had travelled to unnecessary face to face meetings abroad. As a result, they have taken action by exploring alternative ways of engaging with international contacts and cutting out often needless, inefficient, and costly journeys.
The emergence of more sophisticated technologies is having a clear impact on the way that businesses are opting to communicate and do business, with two fifths of the UK SMEs selecting instant messaging (41 per cent) as their number one preferred alternative to business travel. Skype (40 per cent), teleconferencing (34 per cent) and video conferencing (28 per cent) also featured on their preferred lists, with video based communication emerging as the real winner in the face of ongoing travel cuts.
Almost half of SMEs in the UK (49 per cent) are planning to increase the amount it is used for business and 59 per cent confirmed it as a direct replacement for business travel.
Despite an increased willingness to adopt new communication technologies, many SMEs still seem hesitant to break with tradition. Over two thirds (65 per cent) believe that e-mail remains the most effective way of communicating, followed by voice calls (39 per cent), video calls and Skype (29 per cent). Surprisingly, instant messaging ranked quite low in the league table of effectiveness, in spite of being cited as the preferred communication alternative to business travel.
"With the obvious cuts in business travel, companies need to find new ways to communicate, collaborate and compete," said Stefan Oberg, vice-president of Skype for Business. "Without regular face to face meetings, tools that enable people to build and maintain trusted relationships, save time and money, and keeping companies ahead of the game, are key.
"It’s no surprise that video based communication is experiencing a meteoric rise. The only things to watch out for are the simple faux pas most of us have heard of. Forgetting to mute your microphone or switch off your webcam when working from home in your pyjamas are common blunders we would all rather avoid!