Trust the CEO with our digital strategy? No way, say business execs

Research by the analyst Forrester shows that employers around the world are really struggling to come to terms with the explosive impact that technology is having on their businesses.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

More than 90 percent of business executives believe that digital technology will seriously disrupt their business over the coming year but while they can see both a threat and an opportunity, they do not feel equipped to deal with it.

That is according to the analysts at Forrester, who found that only a third of the companies in their survey felt confident that their approach to the digital onslaught was the correct one.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the impact of digital varied between industries: those working in marketing, e-business/e-commerce and IT could see the biggest impact. Some 63 percent in all three areas said that digital technology would have a big impact on their business.

When asked, "Do you think your business will be disrupted by new technologies in the next 12 months?", more than a quarter of the executives working in the media, entertainment and telecommunications sectors said they expected massive disruption. Just under a quarter working in the transportation and travel sectors said the same.

Forrester said that while digital has "already ridden roughshod" over some industries, such as media and entertainment, even in the least digitally disrupted sectors, such as mining and construction, nearly two-thirds of executives still believe that digital disruption will have an impact on their industry in the near future.

Companies also worry they don't have the right execs to rise to this challenge: just 21 percent felt able to say that their CEO was able to set out a clear vision for digital in their business. Again, only 21 percent felt able to say that their organisation had the right people to define their digital strategy. Only 19 percent felt that they had the right technology to execute their digital strategy and only 15 percent felt that they had the right people and skills.

As Forrester sees it, in order to make the most of what digital technology has to offer, organisations need to behave in a different way and the only way that can work is if the workforce learns how to drive the necessary changes.

Martin Gill, Forrester's lead on ebusiness and channel strategy, said there are two crucial areas that companies needed to address:

  • Digital businesses must master digital customer experience and digital operational excellence. "It’s easy to think of digital as your website and apps — and absolutely that’s part of it," Gill said. "But to reap the benefits of being a digital business, you must think about two sides of the equation — both how you enhance your customer experience and how you enhance your operational efficiency and agility using digital technology."
  • Digital businesses thrive within dynamic ecosystems of value. In many respects this was the core of Gill's argument that a key characteristic of any successful digital business was its ability to position itself within an ecosystem of its own making. Successful organisations in this market, Gill argued, would be the ones that "acknowledge that they can’t do everything themselves, so they [must] turn to dynamic ecosystems of partners to extend their internal capabilities".

Looked at from the supplier's side this is not all good news, as Gill points out. Organisations need to understand, he said, "that their customers see them as just one supplier in an ecosystem of firms they turn to ... this drives a different approach to designing products and services in the digitally networked world".

Forrester surveyed more than 1,200 people around the world for its report, "The Future of Business is Digital".

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