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November 10, 2017

Arrogance or foolishness? Digital disruptors are NOT seen as a threat by UK businesses

A staggering one in ten believe they don’t have any challengers at all.

By Ellie Burns

These days we are bombarded with stats and figures about the threat of digital disruption – big banks being felled by fintech startups, unicorns gaining the edge over retail giants, centuries old forms of transportation being put out of business by an app. The list goes on and on. The current rhetoric would suggest that a fear of digital disruptors is very much alive and well among businesses, yet new research reveals that many are not actually taking this threat seriously at all. Indeed, a surprising number believe they are somewhat untouchable and have no rivals at all.

According to research conducted by Dell EMC, businesses in the UK and Ireland are failing to prioritise the competitive threat from agile start-up companies in their markets.

71% of business leaders surveyed are aware their organisation is under threat from digital transformation, yet  half of UK organisations don’t view digital disruptors as a threat. In what proves to be a staggering finding, almost one in ten believe they don’t have any challengers at all.

More concerning still, more than half of line of business (LOB) leaders believe the IT department is a barrier to innovation. The perception that the IT department is a barrier to innovation is a puzzling one, seeing as that historically digital transformation would have been driven by the IT function.

However, the research find that just 49% believe the CIO or IT team should be responsible for driving technology innovation. Again, more than half of LOB leaders feel that their IT team controls too much of the technology estate to enable them to innovate. More than four in ten agreed that they don’t have an established culture of innovation within their business, with just 27% reporting they have the skills within their organisation to support digital transformation.

 “Disruption isn’t new. Organisations of all sizes face new competition and changing market forces all the time”, said Claire Vyvyan, Senior Vice President UK&I Commercial at Dell EMC.

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“Digital disruptors have already shown their impact with everything from genome mapping to holiday rentals. As more organisations recognise the revolution that’s already started around them they’ll be relying on the CIO as a vital part of the organisation’s leadership. A great CIO is one who, working with the CEO, can act as a catalyst for innovation and change. However, in the age of disruptors, the corporate culture needs to shift to make the digital innovation agenda a focus for the whole board, not just the IT team.”

Looking into individual sectors, the research found that fewer than a third of those in financial services thought fintech would give them a competitive edge, though 45% think innovations in mobile payments will. Multi-channel operations appear to be a differentiator for retail firms, with almost two-thirds saying it will give them the advantage. However, it is not the same in all sectors – more than six in ten (62%) in business and professional services from the study believe innovative data analysis will increase their competitiveness, with just 22% of media, marketing and entertainment leaders feeling the same way.

READ MORE: The dangers and pitfalls of the Uber business model

Dayne Turbitt, Senior Vice President UK&I Enterprise at Dell EMC, comments, “Last year our Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index highlighted that the perceived threat of digital disruptors now and in the future was less in the UK than some of the large European countries.

“The report we’re launching today suggests an even more alarming view of the current focus, with organisations turning a blind eye to today’s threat of digital disruptors.  It’s vital for organisations in the UK and Ireland to keep a close watch on what these disruptors are doing and embrace emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and IoT in order to remain competitive.”

“For organisations to recognise and react to these challenges, the right environment needs to be nurtured in the workplace, with the CIO and IT acting as the launch pad for innovation, and not a functional cost centre,” Turbitt concludes.

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