The Digital Business Report - commissioned by Advanced Legal

The Digital Business Report

The 2019 Digital Business Report – an independent survey commissioned by Advanced – explores the state of digital transformation for over 500 British businesses, both SMEs and large enterprises.


With the UK renowned as a global technology leader, we are led to believe that organisations across Britain are digitally advanced. Innovations like artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation are evidently making an impact but the reality is that many businesses are unable to grasp the basics of digital tools like the Cloud. Some aren’t even integrating their core systems which would improve data flow and reporting  across the organisation. It begs the question: what’s holding them back? 

This report highlights the barriers to implementing a successful digital strategy, examines whether expectations of the Cloud have been realised and looks at who is driving the adoption of new technologies.  

Future proofing digital strategy 

The importance of investing in a digital strategy cannot be underestimated. By implementing functional and user-friendly technology, businesses are able to boost workforce productivity and target increased job satisfaction. Many are already introducing a range of digital tools to improve efficiencies from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) through to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). 

What’s more, most businesses use more than one solution to run their core operations (like finance, sales and HR). Larger organisations are favouring multiple software solutions over a single – all in one – system due to the unique requirements of each department (63%), the increased flexibility this offers (53%) and the lower risk of failure (38%). The survey paints a slightly different picture for smaller organisations with almost half (47%) saying the different needs of their departments can be met by a single solution – paving the way for a single, fully-integrated ERP platform that supports the whole company from finance and sales right through to manufacturing and shipping. 

Those businesses that do go down the multiple software route need to integrate these solutions if they are to truly unlock workforce productivity and drive business performance. In fact, a large majority of our survey respondents agree that a lack of integration between their organisation's business software is holding them back from achieving successful digital transformation.

Making the Cloud work

Moving to and integrating Cloud-based software is fast becoming the preferred choice for positive digital disruption. Thousands of British organisations of all shapes and sizes have dared to reimagine their business because they understand the benefits of the Cloud. In fact, 35% of our survey respondents identify their organisation as an innovator, or early adopter of this technology.

Businesses – both large and small – that are using the Cloud are finding it is giving them what they want on a number of levels. Number one is the flexibility of the Cloud, which nearly half (44%) say has lived up to their expectations, followed by improved security (43%) and efficiencies (31%). However, for some reason, only 19% of organisations say mobility is delivering on expectations. Just 19% say it has given them a greater user experience and 13% say it supports business innovation. 

This is a concern simply because the Cloud can deliver these benefits and more, suggesting there are barriers that are preventing businesses from taking full advantage. Are organisations being distracted by hyped-up Cloud tools rather than prioritising software that can be customised and scaled to their individual needs? Are they not being given the right third-party support? And what about considerations regarding the Cloud’s impact on staff? Are businesses not implementing a strategy to support the inevitable behavioural change that results from new working practices? 

The right strategy and guidance can help dictate which operations businesses should migrate to the Cloud and, in certain cases for larger organisations, which are actually best kept on-premise. The key is that, whichever software solution a business decides to adopt, each one is integrated for maximum benefit – and importantly, that the employees using each solution are on board 

TAKEAWAY: Work with a partner to develop a digital strategy that encompasses a change in both people and processes in order to deliver the maximum benefits from the Cloud. 

Taking leadership 

Behind every successful digital strategy is a great leader – someone to drive the adoption of new technologies and ensure employees are prepared to change their ways of working as a result. Tools like the Cloud can help boost productivity and performance, but the expectations of these tools will only be met if the workforce understands their benefits. Leaders will need to identify and support staff who are resistant to change and prefer the old ways of working, as well as those who lack the confidence to embrace new technology. 

The question is: who should be the technology decision maker? Our report reveals there is no clear leader, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that almost a third of our survey respondents don’t think their organisation’s leadership team is moving fast enough to keep up with changing technology needs. Only 41% say their Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is influencing their organisation’s decision to adopt technologies, followed by their Managing Director (MD) / Chief Executive Officer (39%), IT department (28%), and Finance Director (FD) / Chief Finance Officer (CFO) (24%).

Interestingly, one in ten identify that Generation Z (employees under 25 years’ old)  are influential, potentially paving the way for reverse mentoring in which young people mentor their older colleagues in the workplace. As digital natives, it’s these individuals who can help business leaders keep up with the fast pace of technology. They are also well placed to encourage and support those colleagues who are resistant to change or lacking the confidence to try new tools. 

TAKEAWAY: Assign a digital pioneer to lead the implementation of new technologies and launch a change management programme that involves one of your best assets – Generation Z. 

Prioritising security and compliance 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should have been a wake-up call for organisations to better protect their customers’ personal data and get their data in order to improve visibility of their business across the board. Why, then, do only 53% of businesses have a security strategy in place? 
Worse still, just 24% of our survey respondents say their organisation is prioritising security when it comes to technology investment. This urgently needs to change. Both cyber security and data protection should be seen as enablers for, rather than barriers to, digital transformation. 

Yet more than a third say security concerns are holding them back from achieving a successful digital strategy. While it’s unclear from our research what the concerns are (so we now plan to explore this topic further soon), other reports do suggest a skills shortage could be to blame. The latest (ISC)² Report, for example, finds that 63% of organisations have a shortage of IT staff dedicated to cyber security with 59% at moderate or extreme risk of cyber security attacks as a result. How companies can address the shortage is another matter and one Gartner says requires a new approach. 

Does size matter? 

It’s expected that large organisations would be streets ahead of SMEs when it comes to digital transformation. After all, they have bigger budgets and more resources. But, could this actually be their downfall? Large organisations are also more complex. They are faced with managing legacy systems, handling large volumes of data and, in some cases, following old processes that are no longer fit-for-purpose or even compliant with the latest regulations. What’s more, there are larger, more complex departments with multiple leaders and influencers all wanting to have their say on technology. 

It’s no surprise, then, that decisions are generally made far more quickly among SMEs. They don’t face the same barriers that large organisations typically do. It therefore makes smaller organisations more nimble and better prepared to take advantage of technologies with little disruption or delay. The key element is selecting the solution that provides future scalability.

The Advanced 2019 Digital Business Report was carried out online by Research Without Barriers – RWB – between 7 June 2019 and 11 June 2019. The sample comprised 530 senior decision makers working in organisations in the UK with an approximately 50% level split between Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and large organisations (i.e. 276 senior decision makers are working in organisations with 10-250 employees and 254 in organisations with 250 employees or above).

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