UK businesses struggling to deliver on digital strategy

Here, Regina Moran, VP, head of industry consulting and software solutions, EMEIA BAS at Fujitsu speaks on the skills gap in the UK and the digital pace of change.

A study to explore how organisations approach and deliver digital transformation has revealed a UK business community which recognises the importance of digital to respond to new technology and competition but is struggling to deliver, losing more on cancelled digital projects than their counterparts worldwide.

Of 150 UK business leaders surveyed for Fujitsu’s study, The Digital Transformation PACT, 42 per cent have cancelled a digital transformation project in the last two years at an average cost of £483,690 per project. This compares to an average cost of £423,534 within businesses globally.

Assessing where challenges arise, the digital skills gap is cited as a serious hindrance with 73 per cent of UK leaders admitting to a clear lack of digital skills within their organisation. As a result, 87 per cent say attracting digitally native staff will be vital to their success in the next three years.

The research commissioned by Fujitsu examines how businesses are performing against the four strategic elements Fujitsu believes are required to digitally transform successfully: People, Actions, Collaboration and Technology (PACT). UK businesses appreciate the importance of digital transformation, as most (41 per cent) have already implemented digital projects, while 79 per cent are prepared to adapt their business model to respond to technological change.

This focus appears to be driven by digital demands from external forces – 82 per cent say their customers expect them to be more digital and 71 per cent believe they are behind their competition in using digital to deliver for their customers.

‘UK businesses know how powerful technology can be and want to use digital to deliver for customers and keep ahead of the competition,’ says ‎Ravi Krishnamoorthi, head of business consulting, digital and application services at Fujitsu EMEIA.

‘However, digital transformation is about much more than the technology alone. Businesses need to have the right skills, processes and partnerships in place – and that’s where we’re seeing UK executives struggling. We’re living in a time when digital disruption can change the business landscape virtually overnight, so UK organisations must ensure that they can transform successfully and secure their place in the global landscape.’

People

UK businesses consider people the most important part of the digital transformation mix (36 per cent), and the vast majority (92 per cent) are taking steps to increase their access to digital expertise and address their skills gaps. The most popular measure is targeted recruitment (49 per cent), followed by apprenticeships (40 per cent). However, 82 per cent admit that the lack of skills in their organisation is the biggest hindrance to addressing cyber security. Looking to the future, skills will continue to be a key business issue; 93 per cent say up-skilling staff will be vital to their organisation’s success in the next three years, while 83 per cent believe artificial intelligence will transform the skills needed by 2020.

Actions

Looking at actions, meaning the processes and behaviours needed to make digital transformation work, 94 per cent of UK business leaders say their organisation has a clearly defined digital strategy, while 81 per cent are confident that the rest of the business knows what it is. However, three quarters (74 per cent) say that projects are often undertaken that aren’t linked to the overarching business strategy, while 70 per cent say shadow digital projects are the only way parts of the organisation can complete meaningful innovation. Crucially, seven in ten (69 per cent) say the cost of failure has put them off future digital transformation.

Collaboration

UK business leaders are taking positive steps in collaboration, with most businesses undertaking or planning to undertake co-creation projects (65 per cent), with partners including existing customers (53 per cent) and technology experts (51 per cent). Surprisingly, 77 per cent would even be willing to share sensitive information as part of these co-creation projects; however, 74 per cent say that a lack of success within a quick timeframe would quickly put an end to their strategic partnerships.

Technology

And when it comes to technology, UK business leaders are planning to implement a wide range of systems; in the next 12 months, more than half are planning to introduce cyber security solutions (51 per cent) or the Internet of Things (45 per cent). More than other nations worldwide, UK businesses underline the importance of artificial intelligence to their financial (56 per cent) and operational (53 per cent) success over the next ten years. Business leaders are aware of the disruptive impact of technological change, as 84 per cent say the ability to change will be crucial to their survival in the next five years. However, 67 per cent are concerned about their organisation’s capacity to adapt to technologies like artificial intelligence.

Krishnamoorthi continues, ‘The pace of technological change is only continuing to grow, and UK businesses must adapt if they are to keep up with their competition worldwide. It’s extremely positive that businesses are ready to adapt to new technology, but to do so they must look at more than the technologies themselves. Businesses must take steps to address their skills gaps, including up-skilling their existing staff and attracting new talent. Executives have to instil a culture that fosters and supports innovation, with the processes in place to make use of new tools. And finally all UK organisations must recognise the power of true collaboration, to deliver extraordinary new ideas.

‘Only by bringing balance to the four vital elements of People, Actions, Collaboration and Technology can UK businesses hope to thrive in the digital age.’

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