Maximising returns on digital technology investments

Companies around the world are striving to stave off disruption by elevating their digital acumen and capabilities, according to PwC’s Global Digital IQ Survey.

The survey, now in its 10th year of identifying trends in technology and business adoption, examines just how organisations maximise returns on their digital technology investments, or not.

Over the past decade, PwC has used this survey to ask corporate leaders a critical question – how are organisations maximising and profiting from their digital investments?

Companies are faced with an ever-growing list of options for technology investment, but whether or not those investments are being put to good use remains an omnipresent problem – that hasn’t been alleviated in the last decade.

>See also: Digital investment doubles in the UK, led by IoT and AI

This year’s survey results, gathered from the perspectives of 2,216 business and technology executives, provide insight into the challenges corporate leaders continue to face.

While tech is important, the role of customers and employees (including employees like the CDO and CIO) and their ability to adapt to change and utilise digital and emerging tech are critical in advancing transformation.

82% of top financial performing companies surveyed reported a better understanding of the human experience that surrounds digital technology, and 74% stated that they were more likely to resource digital projects with cross-functional teams comprised of business, technology and user experience specialists.

The best-performing businesses consider the definition of “digital” to be more expansive – Only 16% of top performers say that “digital” and IT are synonymous, while 30% of lower-performing companies view digital and IT as one and the same.

C-Suite engagement in digital investment has grown in the past decade, but a large portion of chief executives are still behind when it comes to being the change agents.

In 2007, one-third of companies said their CEO was a champion for digital, but that number remains surprisingly low when CEOs are responsible for staving off disruptors and driving transformation – even in 2017 only 68% of respondents stated their CEO championed digital.

On top of that, many respondents said other senior executives remain disengaged from digital transformations.

>See also: Why the UK tech scene continues to lure foreign investment

Whether they have a high Digital IQ or not, most executives do assume that digital initiatives can have a transformative effect – nearly three-quarters (73%) cited revenue growth as the top benefit of their digital initiatives, followed by increased profits (47%) and reduced costs (40%).

While investments in technology have risen, fewer companies today have teams dedicated to exploring emerging technology or innovation and many (49%) still determine their adoption of new technologies by evaluating the latest available tools, rather than proactively exploring new innovations with specific business needs in mind (40%).

“Digital IQ has a completely different meaning today than it had when we started this research a decade ago,” stated Chris Curran, chief technologist at PwC.

“Today the spectrum and diversity of technologies available to enterprise leaders is immense, and all members of the c-Suite need to understand what technology best fits their strategy and what makes the most sense as an investment. Building a culture of innovation – upping everyone’s Digital IQ – is no small feat, but it’s necessary if a company seeks to compete in today’s highly disrupted and challenging market.”

As this year’s Digital IQ Survey shows, many companies continue to struggle with raising their Digital IQ. There is awareness that digital capabilities are a critical component to success, and that emerging technologies have to be explored.

>See also: Travis Perkins IT investment with cloud transformation

But, leaders remain challenged by the need to transform their organisations to truly integrate digital into the company’s culture. The survey assesses these challenges and also contains unique insights into:

● Which emerging technologies are garnering the most investments in each industry.

● Which technologies executives see as most disruptive to their business models.

● What is expected of technology in terms of its capacity to drive change and elevate the bottom line, as well as PwC’s insights into what the goal of technology adoption should be.

● The people skills necessary to capitalise on digital investments, and what it takes to construct a culture of innovation and digital acumen.

“It is critical that companies today invest in digital solutions if they want to be successful. However, Companies are failing at alarming rates in driving business results from digital technology investments. It’s even more important that they think through how their tech investment drive current and new business models and financial results,” said Tom Puthiyamadam, PwC’s global digital leader.

“Having a high Digital IQ is really all about integration, and requires fitting together the pieces of the puzzle – the business, the customer and employee experience and the technology – to build one cohesive and transformative solution. That’s what will really give a company a competitive edge.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...