Against the backdrop of Brexit and an even greater need for continued growth and innovation within the UK business community, Digital or Die—a new study by Citrix UK—examines YouGov research into the C-Suite’s viewpoint on digital technology and the extent of digital business transformation across the UK today. It reveals the key role that digital plays in future-proofing a business, and the steps which have already been taken to provide businesses with a competitive edge.

From the report, it is clear that digital is largely being driven by business leaders, but there is also an indication that the C-Suite does not seem to agree on digital transformation. One third (32 percent) of UK board level executives see digital transformation as the biggest opportunity for UK businesses in the next three to five years, yet almost a quarter (24 percent) don’t understand why companies are placing more emphasis on digital technology.

Many businesses struggle to harness the potential of digital

Just 35 percent of medium-to-large UK businesses have a single digital delivery plan for the whole organisation. In fact, less than one in 20 (4 percent) of the UK board-level respondents questioned could confirm that their business has already moved to a fully digital operating model. A further 14 percent have no plans to change business and working practices to incorporate digital methods and practices across the organisation.

Over one third of businesses (36 percent) admit to struggling to adopt technology fully into the business strategy. This highlights a significant opportunity for more companies to implement a smarter digital strategy across their business, driving innovation that reflects boardroom strategy and company goals.

The rise of the chief data officer

Over a quarter (27 percent) of UK board level executives do not believe their organisations have time to build digital methods into their business strategies. Perhaps for this reason, many firms (45 percent of those questioned) have implemented a chief digital officer role (or equivalent) to stimulate digital transformation across the organisation and are emphasising their role at the highest levels.

Within organisations where positions such as chief digital officer and head of digital do exist, over two fifths (42 percent) of these digital leadership roles report to the CEO while a further 26 percent report directly to the CIO. Furthermore, over a quarter of businesses (26 percent) without a specified individual leading on digital confirmed that the responsibility for the way digital methods and digital service design are introduced lies with board level employees such as the CEO and CIO. Twenty-nine percent believed responsibility fell to director level. Across the UK, an emphasis around digital is being driven by business leaders.

Division in the boardroom

Disagreement on digital transformation is rife amongst the UK C-Suite, from indecision on whether digital transformation presents a business opportunity to a lack of awareness around digital strategies themselves. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents believe a digital strategy is fundamentally different from an IT strategy, while 40 percent view them as the same, exposing the extent of board level uncertainty around what digital transformation actually means or requires.

The boardroom also demonstrates a lack of understanding around the way in which digital is changing, and will continue to change, almost every business function – whether face-to-face, back office or indirect services with little direct technology use. While 58 percent think digital is useful for some key business functions but not imperative to all areas of the organisation, 56 percent agreed that most companies need a digital strategy for the whole business.

As many are aware, adoption of the cloud and mobility across every industry has created an environment defined as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Within this environment, everything is increasingly digital while people, organisations, and devices are engaging in new ways.

The clear division around digital transformation at board room-level in the UK is worrying. Companies aiming to develop bold strategies and place an emphasis on long-term innovation, supported by every member of senior management, are far more likely to succeed in this digital era. While the UK remains a global leader across many fields, the prospect of Brexit and growing international competition means businesses need to develop and maintain a real competitive edge. It is a pivotal time for businesses in which technology and driving digital is key.

Citrix commissioned the survey among 500 UK board level respondents at medium and large businesses in the UK – 325 (65 percent) UK board level respondents in large companies with 250+ employees and 175 (35 percent) UK board level respondents in medium sized companies with 49-250 employees. The research was conducted online by polling company YouGov, an international research organisation, between 12th August and 19th September 2016.

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