Last week at techUK’s Supercharging the Digital Economy event a panel of technology leaders discussed how to increase the adoption and deployment of digital products and services by organisations across the UK.
To begin the discussion the audience was asked to vote on how digital their organisations currently are. According to the real time vote 20% of the Supercharging audience consider their organisations to be digital natives while 43% saw their businesses as partially digital. The poll also showed that 14% are still going through a process of digital transformation with only 12% having fully completed this process.
In light of these results the panellists were asked what more needs to happen to encourage the increased digitisation of UK organisations.
Sheridan Ash, Technology and Investments Director at PwC, Richard Jones, Board Advisor at BluePrism, Anne Kemp, Director Atkins Global, Anand Chopra-McGowan Head of Europe General Assembly and Paul Brodrick, Development Director for Digitalisation at Siemens all agreed that the UK is a leader in the development of innovative digital technologies. However, the panellists highlighted key challenges that may be stopping companies from realising the full benefits tech has to offer and how these could be overcome by organisations.
Sheridan Ash highlighted the importance of senior leadership buy-in as key to driving digital transformation within organisations particularly the role of CIO that can help to keep businesses on the right digital path. She explained that results from PwC’s annual CEO survey which found that CEOs see digital as an imperative to their business and are investing accordingly in technology.
Richard Jones also highlighted the importance of leadership and called for businesses to be brave in embracing innovative technologies and be willing to “get their feet wet”. Paul Brodrick echoed this call to action highlighting the need for businesses to learn not just from successful tech projects but also from projects where things do not go according to plan. He also suggested that management within firms should explore their organisations to see if technological innovation is already happening but may simply be hidden from view. Paul also called for more businesses to develop a culture that encourages technological innovation to happen not just in IT but across all parts of the business.
Focusing on how to encourage adoption across all sectors of the UK economy Anne Kemp explained that the engineering and construction industry are currently going through a process of digital transformation. She highlighted the importance of removing silos that exist within organisations to enable greater digitisation and the need to encourage greater collaboration and sharing of best practice between organisations. The importance of identifying and promoting successful digital transformation stories and examples that can bring the opportunities to life and can then be scaled up was also seen as key.
Richard Jones explained that a key area of concern is that the UK labour pool is set to lose 2-3 million employees to retirement in the next decade with less people entering the UK workforce. It was suggested that technologies such as AI, automation and robotics could in fact help the UK address this looming situation, but that action is needed from government and businesses alike to encourage greater adoption and use of these evolving technologies in the years to come. This issue led the panel onto a common area of concern namely the UK’s digital skills gap.
Sheridan Ash explained that according to PwC’s research 78% of businesses have changed their people strategy to reflect the skills and employment structures needed for the future. In responding to concerns raised about the shrinking of the available pool of digital talent and the possible impact of Brexit on the UK’s digital talent pool Anand Chopra-McGowan, Head of Europe at General Assembly outlined how businesses are beginning to take action to ensure they have the digital talent needed. He outlined initiatives that businesses are taking to close the skills gap. For example, a global analytics consulting firm that is re-skilling 5,000 of its own staff to fill critical data science roles and a large bank building its own university to turn recent university graduates into productive web developers. Anand highlighted that companies are increasing realigning on their resources and initiatives to address the skills gap they are facing and are taking “matters into their own hands”.
Another key issue raised by the panel was the importance of ensuring the UK has the right regulatory and legislative environment that encourages adoption and deployment of advanced innovative tech. Sheridan Ash suggested that due to the speed of technological change regulators may already be “a bit behind” but highlighted that industry will soon need help from regulators to navigate a future driven by thousands of blockchain transactions and billions of connected IoT devices.