Advanced
Annual Trends Survey
Highlights
2018/19

In October 2018, Advanced carried out its third independent Annual Trends Survey with over 1,000 UK business professionals having their say on key topics affecting British businesses. 

Introduction

In the twelve months since the last survey the pressure on organisations has continued at an unrelenting pace. Businesses are facing competitive markets as well as compliance requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Making Tax Digital (MTD), the government’s Digital Strategy and the uncertainty around Brexit. In a world of major change, never before has the call for businesses to reimagine their organisations been more relevant or resonated more evidently.

This year’s report delves into the technologies that are making a positive impact. We explore disruptive technologies such as the Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – with some surprising findings in store.

The following summary extracts the key findings around the technology trends and challenges identified from the Trends Survey. It also provides an overview of the state of digital readiness among our respondents and examines what businesses need to do to realise the untapped potential of disruptive technologies.

The Digital Revolution

“Digital transformation and adoption have left a large schism between availability and application of technology at work and home. It's a direct flip from 10 years ago.”


David Hardman - Innovation Birmingham

43%

think new technologies would put their company at greater
risk of a security attack

The Digital Revolution

If there is one thing our Trends Survey clearly highlights, it’s that most businesses want to be part of the digital revolution and embrace technology to unleash productivity gains. Businesses are finally getting on board with digital transformation yet, worryingly, some are moving ahead without a clear direction as there are some misconceptions about what to prioritise.

What are your business spending priorities for the next 12 months?

Technology ranks highest when it comes to business spending priorities. Over half (52%) say it will be a priority for 2019; over and above research/development and talent acquisition. Just 35%, for example, say recruitment or skills development will be a priority. This seems low when you consider the growing skills shortage, which is expected to have an adverse effect on productivity in the UK. Perhaps businesses anticipate that the promised disruptive technologies will help fill the gap?

What’s even more concerning however, is that just 36% are prioritising compliance and 35% cyber security. Is the threat of fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) not enough to spark an appetite for data protection? According to research by RPC, the average fine issued by the ICO to organisations failing to protect against data breaches has doubled to £146,000 in the year to 30 September 2018. We can expect this figure to rise significantly now the GDPR is in force.

Making Tax Digital

Will you be ready for the Making Tax Digital (for VAT) regulation that comes into force from April 2019?

The government is implementing initiatives which force organisations to become more digital but, again, is enough support (and time) being given to help them prepare? According to our research, only 57% of businesses say they will be ready for the Making Tax Digital deadline of 1 April 2019, while 35% admit that they don’t know. It therefore comes as no surprise that, in October 2018, HMRC announced a six-month deferral to the start date for some of the more complex businesses.

Productivity

"Technology doesn't mean organisations will lose the core of their business. It's about making efficiency gains."


Vinous Ali - techUK

35%

want to see AI in their
daily working life

Productivity

Where do you think you would see the biggest transformation in your work life if you were given back an extra 60 minutes
a day?

Time is golden in business, as in life, and technology can help businesses win this back. As described above, it can eliminate repetitive, mundane, defined processes – leaving staff to focus on what they do best. As a result, organisations will not only boost business performance but job satisfaction and wellbeing too.

If given back an extra 60 minutes per day, 42% of respondents say they would be able to plan and forecast more effectively, and 29% say it would give them some valuable thinking time for where to take the business next. With regards to wellbeing, 41% say they would enjoy their job more, while 32% say they could give back time to their friends and family.

Could automation play a leading role in resolving this over-work crisis, removing mundane tasks that are better suited to chatbots - such as scheduling meetings?

Compliance and Cyber Security

“It's wrong to think that new technology is more risky. Security is now built into products before the features are.”

Ian Massingham - Amazon Web Services

65%

would be happy to work
alongside robotic technology
if it meant less manual processes

Compliance and Cyber Security

Organisations that fail to modernise their legacy systems and don’t adopt and integrate latest technology (which is often more secure) are leaving themselves open to targeted attacks. The potential fall-out could be devastating – from loss in revenue and a fine from the ICO through to irreversible and costly brand damage.

Do you feel new technologies (such as AI and RPA) would put your company at greater risk of a cyber attack?

The findings from our research show that fears around cyber security could be deterring some organisations from moving forward with their digital transformation projects – and therefore embracing these tools. In fact, 43% think new technologies would put their company at greater risk of an attack while 32% don’t know. That leaves just 26% of respondents who are confident that AI and RPA aren’t less secure.

 

Would you take the risk of investing in innovative technology if it was less secure than existing solutions?

The perceived greater risks of an attack are not putting off 31% of organisations, however, who say they would be prepared to take the risk of investing in innovative technology even if it would be less secure than their existing solutions. For many, then, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Leadership and Workforce

"Every business needs a strategy on how to get people engaged if they are to embrace new technologies."


Robin Jackson - 3VB

Leadership and Workforce

Successful digital transformation calls for a digital pioneer in every organisation - someone who can take the lead and ensure that technology is adopted with enthusiasm and confidence by all. The question is – who is responsible for driving change? Our survey suggests the answer is unclear.

Who is driving technology change in your organisation?

There is no clear remit for this change management and, disappointingly, only a small number of senior leaders are taking charge. However, if the C-Suite champions the adoption of technology, they can ensure that any digital strategy aligns with the overall business strategy, and that it’s led from the top and ripples down across the organisation successfully.

What’s critical for change management to work, however, is that the C-Suite listens to and works closely with their employees to find out their pain points (and those of their customers) and agree which digital tools can help. Otherwise, they risk creating a disconnect between staff and senior leaders, thinking that technology is working effectively when in reality, it might not be.

How confident are you in the leadership of your company to create and run a modern digital infrastructure?

Reassuringly, 78% of respondents say they are confident in the leadership of their company to create and run a modern digital infrastructure. It’s a 9% increase on last year’s survey findings, which suggests that leaders are doing a better job at driving technology change. That said, only 39% of respondents this year think having a strong digital skill-set is the most important attribute for a leader in the digital era (compared to 45% in 2017). The most important attribute is the ability to reimagine the organisation and embrace change (63%).

The ability to welcome change is not just a key attribute for leaders, though - it’s a trait that will be required by everyone across an organisation if technology is to be adopted by all.  

 

What percentage of people in your organisation do you think are ready to adopt new technology to change the way they work?

Interestingly, 59% of our survey respondents think less than half of people in their organisation are ready to adopt new technology to change the way they work. This high figure is worrying – technology can only change the way people work if they are keen to adopt it. So why is the figure so high? Is there a lack of training and awareness across the workforce? Are there some staff that are impervious to change and prefer the old ways of working such as paper-based methods?

If a robot had access to the right business intelligence, do you believe it would be better at decision making than your boss / senior leadership team?

Can robots really take on the role of decision maker? We would argue that intelligent machines are not there yet. Yes, they can make faster decisions, come to conclusions and generate insights more quickly, but humans will continue to be very important and, for at least the next decade, people will manage the exceptions. The ‘human in the loop’ will continue to be important, especially for complex work decisions that require empathy. So perhaps this is more a reflection that employees are dissatisfied with their current leadership, and want to get rid of arbitrary decision making?

Younger Generation

If businesses are to move ahead in the digital era, the younger generation needs to be at the heart of British industry. Leaders need to collaborate better and engage with younger people who are typically more IT savvy and open to change. This goes back to business priorities – should skills development be higher up on the agenda? The challenges of attracting and recruiting the levels of staff needed to underpin a successful and growing business must not be understated in this environment.

Customer Engagement

“Businesses need to step back and look at all the ways of interacting with their customers.”


Alan Barrett - TWM Solicitors

35%

of C-Suite/MDs are
driving technology change
in their organisation

Customer Engagement

According to a recent Forrester report, over the next decade call centres will step aside so these AI-driven bots, and other intelligent self-service solutions, can take over and address customer-facing problems. Why? Because automation can reshape customer engagement and provide more personalised offers at scale than human-run services can. In fact, by 2020, Gartner predicts that 85% of customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a business through AI.

Which of the following are your customers demanding
more of?

Customers are demanding more from businesses. According to our research, 54% want online self-service portals or live web chats with agents while 28% want an online community. Technology is therefore essential to driving customer engagement and, when time is at a premium, tools like AI and automation can provide a solution that improves the experience for staff and customers alike.

Conclusion

This year’s research, once again carried out with over 1,000 UK business professionals, provides us with insight into the transformative digital trends and their impact on organisations today.

There seem to be three key areas that dictate how well a business will be able to move forward in the post-Brexit digital world:

·      Technology adoption

·      External factors and pressures

·      Leadership and workforce culture

What’s clear from this year’s Trends Survey is that more and more organisations are investing in technology –especially the Cloud and, to some extent, AI and RPA – and that technology will be a key spending priority in 2019. This is encouraging and we can expect adoption of these tools to increase over the next 12 months. Maybe we will even see business leaders relinquish some responsibilities to technology so they can take a step back and refocus. 

Businesses also need to recognise that technology can only work with maximum impact when it has a supportive workforce behind it. Many employees are not ready to adopt new technology to change their working practices, so leaders need to understand why and how this can be improved. 

The biggest benefit to be gained from technology is productivity. Time (or lack thereof) continues to be an issue in the workplace and it’s holding people back from focusing on the tasks and decisions that really matter. Winning back time can only be a good thing – staff will feel under less pressure and will be able to focus on making a real difference to the business, or simply improve their own wellbeing by investing in their relationships with colleagues, family or friends.

We want to thank our customers and partners that contributed to our Trends Survey Report 2018/2019 – including 3VB, Amazon Web Services, CBI, Tideway, Innovation Birmingham, Performing Rights Society (PRS), St. Andrew’s Healthcare, techUK, TMW Solicitors.