Taking a tech reality check

Businesses’ relationship with technology is rapidly changing, but adoption isn’t the end of the story

2020 has been a watershed moment for technology. Amid the Coronavirus crisis there has been an acceleration of businesses’ tech strategies; ramped up homeworking and digital has fast become a lifeline for many businesses. That makes it a fitting time for London Tech Week, with its discussions of how UK technology is tackling today’s biggest issues and the role it will, and should, play in the future.

The CBI asked businesses about their technology and innovation investment in our Tech Tracker survey, in partnership with Accenture. Our recent deep dive into the numbers highlighted three digital dilemmas businesses should be aware of, to really make the most of the digital tech they’re investing in.

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Technology adoption itself isn’t the end of the story. Many businesses don’t achieve full value from the technologies they adopt.

The evidence suggests that the firms falling furthest behind in maximising the value of technology adoption risk missing out on 46% of their potential revenue in 2023 (Accenture, Full value. Full stop.). Even though today’s picture is fast-evolving, a rapid acceleration of firms’ digital strategies means that it’s now more vital than ever for businesses to overcome the common challenges of digital transformation and get more from their technology.

According to Douglas Adams, ‘Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet’. That can sometimes feel all too true to those of us for whom video meetings have become the norm (and who may occasionally forget to unmute ourselves…)! But beyond avoiding our individual tech blunders, there are steps businesses can take to ensure that technology works better for them, their employees, and their customers – to help them get the most from their digital investments.

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

There are three ‘digital dilemmas’ for businesses to be aware of

Our research revealed three ‘digital dilemmas’ in particular – common challenges shared by firms that stop them getting more from their tech.

  • Getting the most out of data: We’ve generated many times more data than stars in the known universe – so it’s no surprise that making sense of it is the biggest barrier to innovation, reported by a third of businesses we surveyed. Many of today’s technologies are only as good as the data they use, making it vitally important for businesses to understand what they want to get from their data, store it in a way that works best for their business, and build robust data protection and cyber security practices with employee buy-in.
  • Involving employees in innovation and technology adoption: Most Tech Tracker respondents believe their culture promotes innovation – but one of the biggest difficulties businesses share is giving people the time they need to innovate. If employees don’t get it, the technology won’t work. One great way to get staff buy-in and increase engagement is to encourage people to innovate within their own roles. Employees might be best-placed to identify where technology could aid and improve their own day-to-day routines and processes. Not only does that involve giving people the time to innovate, it also relies on a culture where mistakes are learning opportunities.
  • Put ethics into practice: The word ‘ethics’ can conjure images of philosophical musings and moral mazes, and it can be hard to identify the practical steps that lead to a more ethical approach to technology – especially when the tech landscape is moving so fast. But it’s more important than ever as we strive to build back better. Organisations already think about meaningful ethics, through good governance, employee empowerment, and customer engagement. And you don’t have to start from scratch: the CBI’s report AI: Ethics into practice contains concrete actions and real-life examples to help businesses navigate emerging ethical issues.

For more business insight including steps you can take to address the ‘digital dilemmas’ and get more from your technology, read our report:

Tech reality check: business must move beyond the hype on digital technology

CBI members can also read the latest on the CBI’s Innovation and Digital policy work and get involved at MyCBI.

Published by felicityburch

Felicity Burch is the Director of Innovation and Digital at the Confederation of British Industry. She is also an adviser to the trade association, Sharing Economy UK.

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