The Digital Innovations for Growth Academy operates as a Strategic Partnership from seven member states and is involved in the enhancement of digital competencies of entrepreneurs and owner-manager through the provision of appropriate small firm context digital training programmes. The development of such training programmes is underpinned by an informed understanding of the current status and practices of digital in the entrepreneurial context. To achieve this objective an empirical research study was undertaken with a sample of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial educators and trainers and entrepreneurial learners to ascertain the predicaments they encounter in the adoption of digital and what their needs are in terms of addressing these quandaries. The multi country study (United Kingdom; Ireland; Slovenia; Spain; Lithuania; Bulgaria and Finland) returned a response of 482 usable surveys.

Overall, survey results show that many small businesses are engaging with digital technologies and demonstrate intent to increase their usage of tools to extend into online selling, online networking and ecommerce to a lesser extent.

There was a lack of a strategic perspective of integrating digital technology as part of the broader strategy for their enterprise where digital was viewed on the periphery and undertaken when needed.

A challenge for the surveyed firm, was how to more fully capitalise on the ever increasing opportunities presented by social and digital technologies, whilst balancing the use of those most relevant and appropriate ones to reduce a fragmented and piecemeal approach to achieving a non-measured set of tasks.  Related is the lack of clear measurement or tracking of performance from digital efforts and resources extended to digital media – this lack of measurement perhaps is linked to the absence of a clear set of objectives and fear and confusion as to the potential of digital for a small enterprise.

The ability and need for integrating digital into mainstream business activities is an area requiring attention and is a fundamental foundation on which any successful digital strategy is built on.   Entrepreneurs decide on training on a haphazard basis which may reflect the current or immediate needs of the entrepreneur and the stage of their company rather than a holistic and future planned approach.

Therefore capability and competency development are fundamental to enable and embed a digital mind set in the entrepreneurial context and should incorporate a digital learning pedagogy, which contains views on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of digital as it applies to an entrepreneurial context, and which provides opportunities for the learner to experience and learn ‘with’ and ‘from’ the entrepreneurial application of digital, thus instilling real world and relevant digital ‘know how’.
Dr. Briga Hynes,

Kemmy Business School

Further reflections from DIGA findings so far can be downloaded in two summary reports also prepared by Briga Hynes: