UK economy split over digital technology adoption

The adoption of digital technologies and processes across the British economy is split almost exactly 50:50, according to new research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and IBM.

Interestingly, the number of ‘pioneering’ companies to adopt digital technology (55%) and those those that are lagging behind (45%) almost all agree that it has potential revolutionary benefit.

94% of those included in the study believed adopting digital tech could help drive productivity, job creation and business growth, while 73% believed improved customer satisfaction would be its biggest benefit.

Reasons stated for the apparent lack of commitment to digital integration included a lack of appropriate skills in their business (42%) and an unclear return on investment (33%). This may explain the UK’s current 14th place in worldwide adoption of digital, despite it being first for e-commerce.

Based on the findings of the study, the CBI issued recommendations to both appoint a Chief Digital or Technology Officer to senior executive teams and increase the age range and skills diversity of boards to include the expertise of the new ‘digital native’ generation. It also expressed its desire to see collaboration between businesses, with the more digitally savvy helping to develop and train those that were struggling.

Commenting on the findings, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Businesses globally are in the throes of an extraordinary digital revolution that is transforming productivity and creating a new generation of winning companies. But in the UK, too many firms are being left behind.

“By harnessing the expertise of the generation at the heart of the digital revolution, firms will be better able to make the right investments for their digital future.”

David Stokes, Chief Executive of IBM UK and Ireland – whose own company continues to expand its Watson Health venture – also released a statement, describing the opportunity digital offers for ‘much-needed productivity gains’, along with the chance for organisations to innovate their growth.

“As one of the leading digital economies in the world, the UK finds itself with a tremendous opportunity and responsibility for business leaders to sustain and grow our leadership in the world. This is an opportunity that we in the business community should be hugely excited to face together.”

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