05-05-2016 | | By Paul Whytock
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and electronics giant IBM, say that “pioneering” companies in the UK are suffering from techno-lethargy with just over half of companies adopting digital technologies and processes, while the other half lag behind. This digital divide is highlighted in new research from the two organisations which suggests that this techno-sluggishness is impacting on the country’s economy.
Paradoxically the research says the UK takes top place globally for e-commerce and fifth place for the availability of technology but languishes in fourteenth position in the world for company-level adoption of digital technology.
So what are the factors causing this techno-reluctance? There is a mixture of causes. Connectivity difficulties are sited as a major element which could implicate the country’s slow implementation of high-speed broadband. Worries over data security is high on the list as is a lack of sufficiently skilled employees within their company. Over 40% of firms cited this last factor as a problem. Another major concern was the difficulty in being able to see a clear return on investment in digital technology.
Those are the problems but what does the CBI suggest should be done about them? Well it recommends that firms appoint a chief digital or technology officer to the senior executive team to drive digital strategy and execution. It also suggests in a press release publicising the research that increasing the age and skills diversity of boards and board advisers and drawing on the expertise of a new generation of ‘digital natives’ would help. Although it is not made entirely clear who the digital natives are.
The problem, says the report, is not lack of conviction about the potential impact of technology. Nearly all firms believe that digital technology has the ability to revolutionise the business landscape, drive productivity, growth and job creation.
Other findings from the research say that nearly 30% of “pioneering” firms have already invested in advanced artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies over the past year. These “pioneering” firms, as the report describes them, tend to have a long-term approach and vision to digital strategy.
The CBI also wants to see businesses work more closely with each other to share ideas. For example, more digitally advanced and proficient firms could run digital clinics and offer coaching for those companies struggling to get started. The press release information from the CBI and IBM does not make clear if the digitally advanced companies would charge for this or what their attitude would be to potentially competitive ventures requesting such support.