UK lags behind US and Germany in digital transformation, attitudes to failure are failing the the need for agile, but change could be in the air 

UK companies are lagging behind the US and Germany in digital transformation, 40% of business leaders don’t even understand what their company means by the word, siloes still permeate and there is a fear of failure, finds research. But at least things are getting better.

The research reveals that over 80% of businesses are talking about the benefits of a customer-first approach, but few of are turning the talk into action. Indeed, 51% of respondents to a survey from Optimizely said that customer centricity isn’t focused on enough in their organisation, despite the rhetoric.

The survey covered over 800 purchasing decision-makers from marketing, product and IT teams in the UK, US, and Germany and formed part of the The Digital Experience Economy report.

The report also revealed that cultural and structural barriers are holding back innovation.

The findings show that employees from different departments across the organisation need to be empowered to have a meaningful impact on customer experience.  The customer experience would benefit if the product, marketing, and IT/engineering teams worked together more closely, or so said 79% of respondents.

Organisation’s employees are capable of delivering a constant flow of new ideas focused on improving the digital customer experience, suggested 91% of respondents.  On the other hand, 34% say that organisational structures make it too difficult to turn an idea into reality and team members don’t have the time to focus on developing new ideas. Siloes cause issues too, with 31% saying as responsibility for delivering new ideas is kept locked down in one team within an organisation.

Business leaders disillusioned with business transformation

Almost half of senior leaders believe their business transformation has been a waste of time, but then again, a similar number have admitted to launching business transformation initiatives without a clear strategy.

Changing attitudes to change

The survey also highlighted an issue with an attitude failure, the ‘fail fast and move on’ mantra.  In fact, 20% still have a culture where failure is not an option. But this might change soon, suggested the report. In the past three years alone 68% of executives have altered their attitude to change, with 94% of this number claiming that their organisation has become more open. It is leaders who are driving this trend, as 43% of decision-makers embrace failure more than less senior employees.

Dan Siroker, co-founder and executive chairman at Optimizely, pointed to Amazon and Google as examples of companies doing it right, because they “have consistently embraced failure as a part of their culture.”

“Being able to experiment and fail fast allows organisations to innovate, and stay in touch with the ever-changing Digital Experience Economy. A business-changing idea can just as easily come from the customer support desk as it can from the board room. For this reason, organisations need to ensure they have a culture that allows all employees to have a voice when it comes to customer experience initiatives.”

The innovation tightrope hindered by lack of support, budget and skills

Innovation in the enterprise, or digital transformation, is constantly being held up three main factors: support from the top, dwindling budget and an increasing lack of skills

Businesses struggle for digital clarity

The overlap with the threat of digital disruption is clear.  No less than 66% of global businesses are either moderately or very concerned about being digitally disrupted by their competition. With the customer experience pivotal to success in this landscape, 89% of business decision-makers see digital experimentation as an important part of transforming their customer experience.

“It is clear that communication around such digital transformation must be improved,” suggested the report, but 40% of business decision-makers don’t understand what their organisation means by ‘digital transformation.’ Further to this, 58% agree that the definition of digital transformation and what it means is not communicated clearly enough by leadership teams.

A quarter  of businesses from the US and Germany don’t expect it to take more than a year to roll out their digital transformation initiatives to the entire organisation, only 14 % of respondents in the UK felt this was achievable.

“Ten years ago, investment in digital for most businesses was significant. But today, we’ve seen rapid exponential growth towards how companies think about experience design, product engagement, and customer experience. With the democratization of software for gathering data, analyzing data, and using data to make better products and experiences, businesses have the opportunity to get closer to their customer than ever before. I see experimentation as the key enabler to helping businesses get closer to their customer, to iterate and validate their way into value creation. It’s a continuous and iterative process for understanding what your customers most need and expect,” said Matty Wishnow, Managing Director, Experience Design & Optimization at Accenture Interactive.

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of and the host of the ESG...

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