Business ready to tackle challenges of digital disruption says CEO survey

UK companies are struggling to keep pace with technological advances but see technology disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat, according to KPMG’s CEO Outlook 2017.

As a part of the annual survey, 150 UK business leaders were asked how technology was affecting their business. Charting their views, one third (37 per cent) felt their organisations were struggling to keep pace with technological advances. They also see piloting emerging technologies, attracting strategic talent and building data collection capabilities as their top worries over the next three years.

However, even though 40 per cent of the CEO cohort expect technology innovation to cause major disruption in the coming three years, they remain optimistic about the opportunities it brings. Over two-thirds said that technology disruption is more of an opportunity than a threat.

Sam Subesinghe, head of KPMG’s management consulting practice in Scotland, said: “With technology increasingly core to every kind of business, from retailers to healthcare providers, it is disrupting everyone. It is encouraging to see that UK CEOs view this disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat.  It is essential that UK companies continue to be quick to adopt and exploit the power of disruptive technologies, in products, marketing, manufacturing and operations.

“New, disruptive technological innovations are emerging at a rapid pace. Today’s hot tech breakthrough could soon be yesterday’s news. With so many options to choose from, it’s extremely hard to methodically scan, assess, pilot, and deploy new technologies – but it’s essential that UK Boards ensure the effect of emerging technology on business models is a regular boardroom topic.  This may also require new roles or personnel at board levels.”

Similar findings are reflected in the 2017 KPMG and Harvey Nash global CIO survey which revealed 65% of IT leaders found the political, business and economic environment is becoming more unpredictable. This is of particular significance for the UK oil and gas sector, which continues to experience change and uncertainty. In an increasingly digitalised world, companies must position themselves to be more reactive and agile to change.

Lawrence Hunt, KPMG director and oil and gas consultancy lead in Aberdeen, said: “The UK oil and gas industry has had an incredibly tough few years resetting how it does business. This year has seen a real shift, as operators and supply chain alike focus on digital technologies to drive the next level of efficiency and productivity. This is aligned with other sectors, with the CIO survey showing that nearly 80% of technology budgets have been upheld or even increased this year.

“Investing in new technologies is essential for the North Sea to compete on the global stage, for both investment into new capital developments as well as our supply chain exports. We are seeing a greater investment in digital labour across many sectors, with over 60% of larger organisations in the survey showing a commitment in this area, and the upstream sector is no exception with automation being applied across both the back office and operations.

“In addition, Blockchain, cloud, AI and Internet of Things are all underpinning fundamental shifts in business performance as these technologies become accessible across the sector, rather than just those with the deepest pockets.

Businesses will need to consider how the shift towards digitisation will impact their culture, and will need to be highly considerate about engaging people from across the demographics as they immerse their employees into digital. Whilst the oil and gas sector has always been technology driven, the exponential growth in new technology options also brings challenges in navigating the best solutions – digital is becoming increasingly central to boardroom discussions.”

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