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The Annual Trends Report 2020/21 Highlights

In September, Advanced carried out its fifth Annual Trends Survey. Over 1,000 senior decision makers in the UK answered questions about the impact of technology on their business and the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

Introduction


This year’s report on our Annual Trends Survey is different – and rightly so. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, which continues to impact nearly every aspect of how we live and work.

We have already seen from our 2020 Digital Business Report that organisations faced with the threats of Covid-19 have adapted in order to survive and keep employees safe. This year we have introduced new questions into our survey to get a better understanding of the leading role that technology has in overcoming such a critical event. We also applaud the many business leaders who have stepped up and instilled greater levels of confidence across the workforce during this turbulent time.

There’s no doubt Covid-19, and let’s not forget Brexit, will leave a long-lasting imprint on the business community. But, if there’s any good we can take from this, it’s that we are seeing the acceleration of the shift to a digital-first mindset which will enable agility and future success.

“If we want to increase business resilience and support sustainable livelihoods, we need to encourage businesses to adopt the digital tools that will be needed to allow them to adapt to the new economy.”

 

 

Neil Ross, Policy Manager, techUK

 

Technology and its role in global economic recovery


Technology has become integral to most businesses for some time but the global pandemic has well and truly thrust it into the limelight. Organisations, both in the public and private sectors, have accelerated their adoption of technology to ensure they can continue serving their customers, and provide the tools their employees need to do their job.

What do you believe to be your business spending priorities for the next 12 months?

Q1. What do you believe to be your business spending priorities for the next 12 months.png

More than half (54%) of respondents say business survival during and post Covid-19 will be their spending priority for the next 12 months, on a par with prioritising Cloud software and other technology (59%).

This is followed by remote and flexible working, which at 42% is a reflection of the changing working practices brought on by the pandemic. Cloud software, which enables remote and flexible working, has been hugely successful in helping organisations continue to operate and forge effective new processes and initiatives during the pandemic.

How far do you agree with the following statement: "I feel that technology will play a major role in global economic recovery"?

Q2. How far do you agree with the following statement I feel that technology will play a major role in global economic recovery.png

We have already seen many organisations change their business models to adapt to the current situation. The impact of the pandemic has demonstrated the need for organisations to create more flexible, and responsive ways of working. They are also having to trust, support and empower employees in managing their competing priorities.

Technology is a key enabler for these new practices, and 98% of the business decision makers we spoke to believe it will play a major role in global economic recovery.

Do you think one of the legacies of Covid-19 will be for your organisation to accelerate the shift to a digital-first mindset?

While we can’t predict when the pandemic will be over, we do know it will leave many lasting and complex legacies.

More than three quarters (77%) of our survey respondents say one of these legacies will be for their organisation to accelerate the shift to a digital-first mindset. Interestingly, this figure increases to 90% for the digitally native 18-24 year olds who have always used technology.

Overnight, many organisations have been forced to implement digital business processes in favour of traditional ones. Now, many businesses are looking to build further on this investment in technology.


TAKEAWAY: Looking forward to business recovery, are you keeping up with the latest technology trends enough, and have you identified which digital tools could support your future success?

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“For business, one positive, lasting legacy of this time will be the increased appetite for digital adoption. This has the potential to be the start of a great digital transformation.”

 

 

Felicity Burch, Director of Innovation and Digital, CBI

 

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Technology and innovation


Organisations are already investing in technology to deliver intelligent business insight and drive workforce productivity. The level of digitalisation varies across industries, and this variation is evident in the way different companies have been able to respond to the initial impact of Covid-19.

Which of the following describes your IT software and services?

Q9. Which of the following describes your IT software and services.png

Just over a half of our survey respondents (55%) say their IT software and services give them the right tools to do their job effectively, while 50% say they enable them to do their job remotely. Worryingly, only 44% say their software and services enable collaboration, something that has become increasingly important this year in improving efficiency and keeping colleagues in touch while working remotely.

What’s even more concerning is just 22% say their IT software and services give them a connected and real-time view of the business – a drop from 32% last year. This suggests many of the tools in place are no longer fit for purpose given that many employees are now working from home.

What is most important when developing and adopting innovative technologies?

Unsurprisingly, more than a third (36%) of our respondents say the ability to adapt to a changing environment is most important. Many employees are working remotely for the foreseeable future and it’s those early adopters of technology that will be able to support flexible working and respond to rapid changes in market demand.

However, any new technology must work alongside existing software, and 29% of respondents told us the ability to integrate with legacy applications and infrastructure is most important when developing and adopting innovative technologies. Many organisations are still deeply entrenched in legacy systems, and these can be complex to connect with modern technology such as the Cloud, limiting the options for digital transformation.

What would hold your organisation back from modernising its key business processes or systems with new technologies?

Q12. What would hold your organisation back from modernising its key business processes or systems with new technologies.png

Our research confirms that, for some organisations, integration is indeed a barrier to modernising key business processes or systems. Nearly a third (27%) believe this inability to integrate modern and legacy applications will limit their organisation, while 25% point to a lack of interoperability between multiple IT systems as a stumbling block.

Cost is perceived to be the biggest barrier of all though, with nearly half (46%) saying it will hold them back. However, because the Cloud can offer the flexibility and resilience organisations so desperately need, in a model that allows for the easy scaling of costs up and down, it can in fact be more affordable than on-premise technology solutions.


TAKEAWAY: Have you determined which technology systems have fallen short as a result of the pandemic, and which you can prioritise for modernising now?

“Professionals are drawn to working for organisations which are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Employers who provide the technology to staff planning to work remotely on a full-time basis will stand out as an employer of choice.”

 

 

James Hallahan,
Director – IT & Digital Technology,
Hays UK & Ireland

 

Leadership


Covid-19 has placed extraordinary pressure on business leaders in every size of organisation and in every industry. It is gratifying to see from the results of our survey that many leadership teams have stepped up and taken effective action to help minimise the damaging effects the pandemic continues to have on their organisation and workforce.

What do you think are the most important attributes for a business leader in the digital era?

Q13. What do you think are the most important attributes for a business leader in the digital era.png

Nearly half (46%) of our survey respondents say the most important attribute for a business leader in the digital era is to ensure all employees have the digital tools they need to do their jobs productively – hitting the top spot for the first time. This comes as no surprise as many teams continue to work remotely and are therefore increasingly dependent on technology to enable them to communicate with each other, and with their customers, virtually. What’s more, they are dependent on technology integrating with office systems for visibility.

Meanwhile, 43% say the most important attribute is to take strong leadership in a crisis and 41% say it’s to have a clear vision and strategy amid economic uncertainty. Both are a reflection of the times we live in, as business leaders do all they can to meet customer needs, create new opportunities and preserve jobs.

How confident are you in the leadership of your company to bounce back from a crisis?

Q16. How confident are you in the leadership of your company to bounce back from a crisis.png

It is reassuring to see that 82% are confident in the leadership of their company to bounce back from a crisis. This is a great endorsement of our business leaders. Like the rest of the workforce, many CEOs and directors have been working from home, and we are all getting used to seeing each other outside of a workplace environment. It has perhaps helped the leadership team to be seen as more accessible and communicative, and has allowed them to demonstrate empathy and shared human experience. This seems to have had a very positive effect in building confidence in, and support for, those running the business.


TAKEAWAY: Have you been communicating with your employees enough to understand how they have been impacted by the pandemic, and how the leadership team can better support their wellbeing, including with the use of technology?

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“We have been able to move our staff to working from home in just a few days, build real-time Trust-wide dashboards of Covid-19 cases and redeploy staff.”

 

 

Bill Fawcett, Chief Information Officer, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

 

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Workforce


The pandemic, and its impact on business, has tested the many new and existing technologies that organisations have in place. It has imposed huge changes to the way people work and highlighted any lack of tools, systems or infrastructure that are now required to support a virtual mobile workforce.

Have you seen limitations in your organisation's current technology to support the changes in working practices that have come about as a result of Covid-19?

More than half of respondents (57%) admit they have seen limitations in their organisation’s current technology to support the changes in working practices that have come about. The sudden and unexpected requirement to work remotely has highlighted weaknesses in current technologies and, as such, has forced organisations to accelerate technology adoption so that productivity isn’t adversely affected. Those who have been slower to weave modern technology solutions into their operations have struggled.

What have the implications of Covid-19 demonstrated amongst your workforce?

Q4. Which of the following have the implications of Covid-19 demonstrated amongst your workforce.png

Two thirds (63%) of our survey respondents say Covid-19 has demonstrated the need to enable greater flexibility among the workforce. More than half (58%) say it has highlighted the need to create more agile ways of working. This is followed by the requirement to build resilience and endurance within the workforce (46%), to regularly communicate with the workforce (43%) and to build trust (43%). This shows that organisations recognise the importance of helping the workforce transition to the new way of working, using technology as a key enabler.

What is the attitude of people within your organisation to the adoption of new technology?

Q19. What is the attitude of people within your organisation to the adoption of new technology.png

Reassuringly, the appetite for the workforce to use new technology is there. 25% are already keen to adapt to new technology – a figure that doubles for the 18-24 year olds – and 40% are open to learning about what innovations can offer them.

However, with 20% still worried or concerned about change when adopting new technology, there’s a job to be done in educating some employees as to the benefits it will bring.


TAKEAWAY: To what extent is your leadership team making the right decisions around implementing tools that will increase productivity, accountability and collaboration for your workforce?

“Tech Republic reported that 46 per cent of businesses have experienced at least one security incident since the start of the crisis. This is an alarming statistic, highlighting that cyber security should be of paramount importance.”

 

 

Justin Young, Director of Security and Compliance, Advanced

 

Cyber security


Organisations’ preparedness for a cyber-attack is a common theme throughout all of our reports. After all, every business – and indeed employee – is at risk of becoming victim to an attack. The question is – how have attitudes to cyber security changed during the course of this year?

Is your organisation prepared for a potential cyber-attack?

Q22. Is your organisation prepared for a potential cyber-attack.png

According to our report, the majority of organisations (70%) are prepared for a potential cyber-attack. It’s a slight drop from last year, at 72%, and shows that little progress has been made.

There are signs this lack of progress will continue into 2021 too. Only 36% say cyber security will be a business spending priority for the next 12 months – quite a drop from 43% last year. It’s a cause for concern. Covid-19 has potentially distracted organisations from investing in cyber security, which is actually critical given the pandemic has opened up a number of new security risks.

Do you feel innovative technologies would put your organisation at greater risk of a cyber-attack?

Q24. Do you feel new innovative technologies would put your organisation at greater risk of a cyber-attack.png

Interestingly, nearly half (47%) of our survey respondents still feel that innovative technologies would put their organisation at risk of a cyber-attack. It’s a slight drop compared to last year, at 53%, and demonstrates that people are slowly beginning to recognise that new technology is usually more secure. As before, this comes down to education and helping people understand that innovative technologies can actually benefit an organisation’s cyber security efforts.


TAKEAWAY: What measures do you need to put in place to ensure your entire workforce understands the increasing cyber security risks, and to enable your organisation to be more secure?

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Conclusion


The Advanced Trends Survey Report 2020/21 differs from our previous reports. It is dominated by a critical event that has turned our lives, and the business world, upside down.

Some organisations have emerged stronger and more resilient, while others are still trying to navigate their way through the chaos. Sadly, as we have already seen, some will not survive.

Reassuringly, though, the majority of businesses share the same view which is that Covid-19 is fast-tracking the shift to a digital mindset. We still have a long way to go, but we have all witnessed the positive and empowering effects that technology can have on organisations, employees and communities.


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Methodology

The Advanced Trends Survey Report 2020/21 was carried out online by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 30 September and 6 October 2020. The sample comprised 1,007 senior decision makers working in organisations in the UK with over 100 employees.

Thank you for reading our Trends Report 2020/21 Highlights.

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