Optimising Trusted Advisor Accountants to Drive Digital Adoption



There is a growing appreciation for the use of technology in UK SMEs to remain competitive. This is evident from the recent CBI report "From Ostrich to Magpie" that claims improving UK companies' adoption of existing technologies offers a unique opportunity to raise SMEs business productivity. The report highlights improving management best practice, innovation and diffusion, acknowledging the need for businesses to learn and apply new knowledge.

Given that 75% of SMEs use an external accountant (ICAEW, 2014), a programme which Optimising Trusted Advisor Accountants to Drive Digital Adoption (OTAADDA) could reach a high proportion of SMEs through existing channels. The accreditation bodies, as well as large firms, such as Sage (UK) Ltd are a route to engage, recruit, train and interact with a large proportion of accountants.

This is a non-business led trial designed by academics at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, in collaboration with Sage (UK) Ltd. Northumbria has developed the project infrastructure, will manage and drive the research and co-ordinate the dissemination of findings.

The Project

The project will focus on the provision of an intervention for accountants to better equip them to provide knowledge, skills support and confidence to their SME customers so that SMEs feel better able to harness the benefits of digital technology across several specific applications.

We will use a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to compare different intensities of advice provided by accountants to SMEs (as well as no advice at all: to the control group). Using mixed methods we will evaluate statistical measures of changes in productivity, as well as conducting a realist evaluation of how the transfer of knowledge to SMEs is diffused to drive digital adoption.

Sage (UK) Ltd will recruit N=400 accountants (not just those that use Sage products) who will in turn will identify n=1200 SMEs to participate in the trial. Both accountants and SMEs will be recruited from across the UK. We will focus on micro and small SMEs (that comprise 98% of the SME population) across different industry sectors, including manufacturing and services. This trial will demonstrate the optimal intensity and type of intervention for digital adoption to boost productivity with SMEs, and subject to roll-out, broader UK Plc.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer



SAGE (UK) LTD £18,534 £ 18,534


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