Written by David Turner, CMO at Sidetrade. 

In his address to the nation on 17 March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak rightly noted that the Coronavirus poses a serious public crisis, and tech firms are stepping to play their part. 

Across Europe, the tech community is coming together, doing what they can to defeat the crisis posed by the Coronavirus. In the UK, technology and engineering firms are working with the NHS to supply much-needed devices.  

Meanwhile, techUK holds regular meetings with government departments and the NHS, making sure its members can respond to ever-changing needs, as seen by the collaboration of datacentre providers.  

There have been outstanding examples of creativity, agility, and generosity by the likes of the Ventilator Challenge UK group which includes Airbus, BAE Systems, Formula One, Thales, and Siemens, and from Dyson and Cambridge-based Technology Partnership.  

Exscientia, an Oxford-based firm that uses artificial intelligence to develop new medicines, has teamed up with Scripps research institute in California, to screen more than 15,000 drugs for their effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19. 


Tech to fight the economic battle?  

But the chancellor also said the Coronavirus posed an economic crisis, too. Businesses are struggling, and employees fear for their jobs.  The Government’s set of measures to pay staff wages, and new loan schemes for SMEs and enterprise, is to be welcomed.  

What can tech firms do to address the economic problem? Just recently we read that Nissan, the Japanese carmaker, has told its British suppliers that crucial payments are being delayed because of COVID-19. Late payment puts massive pressure on business, and risks staff being furloughed or made redundant.  

In other news, high street restaurants and coffee shops are threatened with insolvency, as cash has dried up. It has made paying staff wages and bills difficult or impossible, with several withholding rent causing landlords to respond with court orders.  

Again, what is our tech community doing to address the economic crisis? The old adage, ‘cash is king’ has never been truer and more critical than it is now; businesses across every sector are feeling the cash crunch, with some sectors worse than others.  

Just over the channel in France, the government has already established a crisis committee to look at the economic problem of B2B payments during Covid-19. It’s a much-needed step, along with other government-led support. The UK needs something similar, and quickly.  


Practical suggestions  

Can tech companies help businesses quickly move to cloud-based software and storage, if they aren’t already? What about helping with the challenges of remote working and maintaining cyber security?  

Are there tech firms using AI and predictive analytics to help businesses with financial forecasting? What about firms who specialise in automation helping companies to free up staff time to focus on more urgent, and perhaps delicate engagement with customers? Can tech firms specialised in audio-visual communications offer their services to businesses that have been more reliant email, letters and desk phones? Can our fintech companies come to together and put their services and expertise to help?  

Sidetrade’s free offer to SMEs 

Of course, I write as a someone who works for a tech firm, Sidetrade, and a member of techUK. Following our discussions with finance departments and companies struggling to collect cash in these difficult times, we’ve created a solution which we think can help.  

Cash collection teams are usually office based, meaning things like laptops, work mobiles, VPNs, and cloud-based software to do the job remotely is very difficult, if not impossible. Added to that, sending letters and calling customers has become futile – offices are empty and closed. The whole process now needs to be digital.  

So we’ve created a free offer to SMEs at this time – CashControl. In the last few days we’ve been busy reaching out to government, trade bodies, and the media, telling them about it.  

We’re giving SMEs free access to our AI platform, to help them collect their cash from invoices (accounts receivable) and negotiate payments in instalments for struggling customers. Our AI assistant, Aimie, can take on much of the manual chasing and email processing to help collection teams cope with the extraordinary volumes and focus on the most critical issues And it’s completely digital, cloud-based, and SaaS.  

We’ve repurposed our platform and implementation, which is usually aimed at global enterprise businesses, in order to help those that are worst affected by delayed payment. It can be implemented, and staff trained within five days – all for free.  

In this uniquely challenging time, we’re having to re-think and redefine ‘tech for good’, in unexpected ways. 

See the CashControl website for details: https://www.sidetrade.com/cash-control

  • Max Chen


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