Digital transformation is a trend that continues to dominate many industries. As Citrix CEO,Kirill Tatarinov, highlighted earlier this year, digital technologies are vital to making companies more productive and ultimately, more competitive.

Curious to find out the state of play in South Africa, we recently partnered with BMI-TechKnowledge (BMI-T), to look at the impact of ICT and digital transformation on South African businesses. The study, which you can find in full here, involved a total of 329 interviews with both business leaders and IT managers from 254 companies.

Interestingly, digital transformation readiness does not appear to top the priority list of the South African business decision-maker. In fact, the report suggests a sense of complacency—or even reluctance—among businesses regarding investment in progressive technologies.

Fifty-three percent of all respondents said that they were investing in technology simply to “keep the lights on” rather than for competitive-edge innovation. This means companies could be at risk of becoming irrelevant, as other countries surge ahead with digital transformation projects to create innovative and technology-driven businesses.

Digital is vital to future success

What was also clear is the disconnect between IT workers and business respondents. IT managers better understood the vital importance of digital transformation to improve performance and—ultimately—transform a company. As many as 83 percent of those working in IT identified a direct link between digital transformation and the achievement of strategic business objectives. However, only 31 percent of business respondents specified that their organisation had been driving digital transformation at the highest level.

In line with this finding, 56 percent of all respondents identified skills shortages as the top challenge to achieving technological innovation. Access to people with the right skill-sets to manage the new age of data-driven systems is important, yet tough, in the current market.

Despite this recognition, 75 percent of respondents did not see the need for a Chief Digital Officer and only around 5 percent of respondents regarded technology as a threat to their current job role. The general consensus was that human input would always be a necessity and nearly 35 percent of business respondents ultimately didn’t see technology having any impact on their role at all.

A missed opportunity for business innovation and growth in South Africa?

These issues aside, businesses did seem to understand that technological investment could result in improvements in growth, innovation and productivity. In fact, many felt that should a business invest in the right technologies to support digital transformation, there would be a 53 percent improvement in productivity, a 68 percent improvement in business growth and a 69 percent improvement in innovation. Technologies such as virtualisation and cloud computing were viewed as important to transforming businesses in the foreseeable future.

The bottom line, however, is this: from healthcare to financial services to government, everything is increasingly digital – allowing people, organisations and devices to engage and connect in new ways. In order for South African businesses to become more agile, competitive and relevant, proactive investment in innovative technologies is an imperative.

Given how the convergence of cloud, mobile, big data analytics and IoT has changed and improved the way global counterparts work and live, South African businesses now have a choice: either invest in technology for the purpose of innovation rather than just operational efficiency, or risk falling behind. Investment now in foundational technologies may ultimately shift South Africa towards a more positive and productive future.

Citrix commissioned BMI-T to conduct a survey which consisted of 329 interviews in 254 companies with an eventual 40/60 split between business and ICT technical respondents. The surveys were conducted during the month of September 2016. Industry sectors selected were Finance, Manufacturing, Government, Health, Education, Media and Communications.

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