Advanced
Annual Trends Survey
2017

In September 2017, Advanced carried out its second 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 we undertook our first survey, the pressure on organisations continues to be unrelenting. The digital era represents the 4th Industrial Revolution – where the adoption of technology and the emergence of digital-first businesses are transforming industries – and its disruptive impact continues with pace. In a world of major change, never before has the call for businesses to reimagine their organisations been more relevant or resonated more evidently.

The following summary extracts the key findings that provide insight around the leading themes identified from the Advanced Trends Survey. It also sets the scene for conclusions around the state of readiness among businesses in the face of digital disruption, and examines the biggest barriers to digital transformation.

The Economy

“We know that businesses’ ability to innovate and embrace the digital era is fundamental to the prosperity of our economy.”


Tom Thackray - Director for Innovation, CBI

88%

perceive globalisation
as an opportunity

Brexit

Having asked this question last year, what really stands out from these results is the lack of change that has occurred in the level of ‘preparedness’. The figures stay the same as last year, with 61% remaining ‘unconcerned’ if their business is not prepared for changes. Are organisations simply lethargic about stepping up to the Brexit opportunity – or indeed threat – or simply focusing attention elsewhere?

The Industrial Strategy

63% of respondents to this question did not know if the Government’s Industrial Strategy was bold enough to be successful, and a mere 5% believed it to be bold. Given the Government’s Industrial Strategy is about improving living standards and economic development - by increasing productivity and driving growth across the UK – this is a worrying finding. This must surely bring into question whether businesses find this strategy relevant, and in fact if they understand what it might mean. For example, do business leaders know enough about the Industrial Strategy to maximise the opportunities it reportedly presents? These fears have been echoed by the CBI, which stated in its recent budget submission that the Industrial Strategy needs to be brought to life through concrete action, as a means of reinforcing the UK economy against future challenges.

Leadership & Workforce

“The ability to reimagine an organisation is a key attribute of differentiating your business. The leadership agenda must be to take it further than just imagination.”


Leslie Ross - Director of Change and IT, St Andrew’s Healthcare

As observed last year, being an effective leader is not just about personal traits. Leaders also need to review the way organisations are structured so they can act with pace. This can ensure that change ripples effectively across the organisation in a structured and effective manner. And organisational change management appears to be an area in which leaders may well have been focusing some of their efforts.

In contrast to results from last year, over a third (38%) have embraced a flat organisational structure, compared to less than one in four (24%) in 2016. This significant swing is encouraging, indicating that the boardroom increasingly recognises the benefits of a more flexible, flat structure. This is designed to overcome the well-reported disadvantages of rigid hierarchy, such as poor communication, increased bureaucracy and an inability to drive change easily.

Arguably, this shift ensures organisations are also better placed to benefit from an effective digital infrastructure, where real-time access to data results in better reporting and the ability to quickly spot trends and challenges. By bringing key elements of transformation together, it ensures organisations are best placed to innovate, grow and prosper – imperative in the current climate to move from struggle to survival. It is encouraging to see that leaders of British organisations have recognised the importance of change management in the boardroom.

Leadership &
Workforce

"Cyber resilience is increasingly important for all companies across the economy. They must continue to move from awareness to action, by ensuring cyber-security is a board level priority."

Anonymous - Private sector

82%

feel the ability to reimagine
a business is the most important
attribute in a leader

The Generational Gap

As Millennials begin playing a larger part in today’s workforce, observing trends across the generational gap is an important step in understanding the perceived issues of each age group.

53% of Baby Boomers do not know if the Government’s Industrial Strategy is bold enough to drive innovation. This figure suggests a possible lack of information around the Industrial Strategy and how businesses may benefit from this plan. Millennials are even less aware of the Government’s strategy, with 76% reporting that they do not know how this will drive innovation throughout businesses.

Does this highlight a gap in communication from the Government through to Millennials?

Having the right tools to work effectively is crucial for any growing business. It is then rather concerning that more than one third (36%) of business professionals reported not having the right tools to do their job effectively. This figure has not significantly changed since 2016, suggesting a lack of progression within these companies and a hesitation to embrace digitalisation.

It is also noteworthy to mention that of those that do have the right tools to do their job effectively, nearly half have said they are at least 50% more productive. 8% of Baby Boomers deem their productivity levels to have increased twice as much due to digital tools, whereas 24% of Millennials have reported the same level of increased productivity. This large difference could be due to the levels at which each age group sit within the business. While Millennials may work daily with various digital solutions (for example to analyse data and pull reports), many Baby Boomers are at levels within their organisations where they receive the output of this technology rather than being actual users of it. Could this explain the gap in increased productivity?

This familiarity with technology can also explain why 27% more Millennials, in comparison to Baby Boomers, see the automation of manual tasks as beneficial in allowing them to focus on value-add.

The ability to reimagine a business is deemed the most important attribute from both generations. This mutual opinion highlights the importance for leaders to work to embrace the digital future and have an open-minded view of the possibilities the digital era can enable.

Digital Readiness

“I see a lack of up-to-date, real-time information as a big problem – although not surprising, particularly in further education. Many systems are no longer fit for purpose. A lack of real-time information means progress happens far too slowly and data cannot be acted upon in time.”

Ricky Coxon - Executive Director of Further & Higher Education, Grimsby Institute

18%

of respondents feel
unprepared for a cyber-attack

Following the Government’s 2016 pledge to invest £1.9 billion in cyber-security in recognition of this danger, further commitments to vulnerable sectors have followed – such as £21 million specifically to help the NHS boost data and cyber-security efforts. However, the Government appears to be using a carrot and stick method to ensure this issue is addressed. For example, with the introduction of the Data Protection Bill announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in the summer of 2017, any organisation providing essential services may now face fines of £17 million, or 4% of global turnover, if they fail to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.

Despite a slight improvement of 4% on 2016 figures, 81% are still not confident the Government’s allotted budget for digital is enough to embrace the significant opportunity it could deliver. That is despite important announcements made during the past year, such as the NHS Digital initiative and its budget for the high profile ‘Global Digital Exemplars’. How can the public sector effectively step up to service communities effectively, without confidence in having the right budget levels to actually implement the required changes?

So, what else is vying for top position as the key issue that businesses are grappling with?

“Cloud is with us and it’s here to stay. It’s an increasing part of my agenda. Certainly as human beings we’ll all be using applications in our daily lives that are rendered from Cloud-based services. A driving force in this industry seems to be data security, considered originally to be a weakness.”

Leslie Ross - Director of Change and IT, St Andrew’s Healthcare

General Data Protection
Regulation (GDPR)

New this year, we asked about how the impending GDPR, that comes into force in May 2018, will affect businesses, and indeed how many respondents thought it was relevant to them.

Despite the looming deadline of the GDPR, a worrying 25% of respondents revealed they were either unsure or not confident their organisation is going to be ready for the deadline, highlighting another significant risk to businesses in 2018. The recent horrifying data breach at Equifax in the USA, affecting 143 million people, means they could have been fined US$124m if they were subject to the GDPR regulations.

So with these big issues gathering pace, are UK organisations embracing digital to help them meet the challenges? Indeed, what constitutes ‘digital’ is itself evolving. One of the transformative technologies that is now an essential ingredient is the Cloud, a trend which has accelerated over the last twelve months. How are British businesses reacting to the Cloud, and what are the levels of adoption?

Of the respondents that currently do not have a Cloud solution, a third are looking or planning to adopt Cloud technology. This trend was also backed up by our Cloud survey. It was interesting to note that 27% of this Cloud adoption is being driven by leaders within the finance department.

Exploring attitudes to the Cloud a little further, we asked what respondents felt were the top technology trends for this year, where Cloud was one of several options.

Although over one third (35%) still lack confidence in a connected view of data, there are encouraging signs, with an increase of 3% of respondents feeling ‘very confident’ and two thirds (65%) claiming to be either ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ in having an organisational-wide view of critical data. When looking at the businesses that are confident, there are some positive trends towards real-time data. We asked those respondents a further question to explore this area.

Encouragingly, almost two thirds (62%) claimed that this data is available in real-time, an upwards trend from only 50% in 2016. And whilst there is a 10% improvement in the availability of real-time data, there’s also a downwards trend in organisations using data older than one month, with only 5% of businesses admitting to this - down from nearly 10% in 2016.

Customer Focus

“ We are in a new customer centric era, in which businesses that fail to embrace and adopt technology to improve customer experience will be at a significant competitive disadvantage.”


Adam Carson - Managing Director, BA CityFlyer

49%

use social media to
engage with customers

A digital presence for customer engagement is evolving as quickly as Cloud technology develops. The fastest growing areas underpinning a move to Cloud services are: looking for online self-service support portals (37%), online customer community (29%), single sign-on (27%) and real-time dashboards (27%). It’s an indication of how customers want a digital face to service their needs – easily, efficiently, any time and anywhere.

Demographics

Conclusion

This year’s research, once again carried out with over 1,000 UK business professionals, provides us with unprecedented insights into the trends emerging around the state of readiness of British businesses within the digital era. 

Given the continuing overwhelming agreement that an ability to reimagine a business in the digital era is the most important attribute of a leader, this arguably links to concerns around Britain’s challenges with productivity and the fact that the country is lagging behind its counterparts. If workforces lack confidence in their leadership, this can only serve to demotivate employees, thwart productivity and cost businesses money. 

Our state-of-the-nation Trends Survey Report has uncovered some worrying trends in the state of leadership in this digital era, whereas it should be seen as opening a host of opportunities for businesses. For those organisations embracing technology and adopting a digital-first strategy, there is a real chance to steal a march on what could be complacent competition. To find out more about how Advanced can support you in your digital journey, contact us.

Want more?

Read this year's report

Find out more