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80% of service firms boost digital transformation plans

By Dawn Gibson

Employers are taking a more people-centric approach to digital transformation as the pandemic forces companies to innovate faster, new international research reveals.

More than 80% of business and IT decision makers in service industries are accelerating digital transformation plans in response to growing user demand, according to a study by enterprise cloud applications company Unit4 focused on how well organisations are adapting to the challenges brought about by Covid-19.

Decision makers cited three main impacts of the pandemic on their enterprise applications strategies. They have become more agile in their planning (49%) and acknowledge the pace of innovation (42%) has increased, while 35% say it has sped up their investment in moving to the cloud and 24% are more comfortable failing fast.

They’ve also outlined specific priorities to enable workforces to be more productive, which shows that innovation has become much more focused on the needs of users.

Tech priorities

The research identifies the top three priorities for end users:

1. having the freedom to access IT systems so they can work from anywhere

2. better tools for collaboration

3. increased automation to reduce workloads

Consequently, decision makers say their future IT plans are very people-centric, listing their main objectives as wanting to enable the flexibility of remote working, creating environments to encourage greater collaboration and empowering employees to be more productive, as well as meeting the demands of customers. In the UK, the priorities are slightly different, with the top priority being empowering employees to meet customer demands, followed by creating the flexibility to work wherever and maximising the ability of employees to be productive.

Internationally, decision makers say they are focused on three tech-based priorities:

1. Building a simple and intuitive user interface and experience – 43%

2. Using automation to simplify and speed up workflows - 39%

3. Enabling users to communicate with enterprise applications using their preferred tools, such as Slack and WhatsApp – 38%

The study involved interviewing more than 4,000 business and IT decision makers, as well as end users, based in 12 countries during August and September. The respondents were drawn from companies of all sizes in service industries.

Lockdown productivity
As many organisations transitioned to remote working during 2020, a positive outcome has been that 60% of surveyed users say they have been more productive during lockdown. They are also predominantly satisfied that their IT systems have helped them to get the most out of their roles. It is perhaps unsurprising that 84% of decision makers want to encourage colleagues to work remotely more often following the lockdown, which is mirrored by 69% of end users who also want the same flexibility. Now that organisations have proven their enterprise IT systems can handle the demands of a remote, distributed workforce, there is confidence they can sustain the model.

However, there are challenges ahead, as 34% of decision makers say they must break down silos of information across their organisations and 31% of users are reluctant to change. On a more positive note, a resounding majority (84%) say that the pandemic is forcing meaningful board discussions about future strategy, which clearly shows C-Suite decision makers are engaged.

Almost eight out of ten IT and business decision makers believe traditional on-premises IT systems and enterprise applications are not capable of reacting to rapid change, with 86% saying the cloud offers more flexibility – a figure that rises to 92% among UK decision makers. More than two-thirds expecting their enterprise applications to be fully cloud-based in the next two years.

“New ways of working, initially broadly imposed by the global pandemic, are morphing into lasting models for the future,” says Mickey North Rizza, Program Vice President for IDC's Enterprise Applications and Digital Commerce research practice. “Permanent technology changes, underpinned by improved collaboration, include supporting hybrid work, accelerating cloud use, increasing automation, going contactless, adopting smaller TaskApps, and extending the partnership ecosystem. Enterprise application vendors need to assess their immediate and long-term strategies for delivering collaboration platforms in conjunction with their core software.”

Unit4 CEO Mike Ettling says, if employers have learned anything this year, it is that the business environment can change almost overnight, and business leaders need to be able to reimagine their organisations and seize opportunities to secure sustainable competitive advantage. “Our study shows what is possible with continued investment in innovation and a people-first, flexible enterprise applications strategy,” he says. “As many countries go back into some form of lockdown, this people-centric focus is crucial if businesses are to survive the challenges of the coming months.”

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