If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer forecast the socio-political and economic landscape. The only thing that we can, or should expect for 2017, is that it’ll be just as unpredictable. So how can businesses build stable success, and ensure its workforce is benefitting from the digital training they need to survive and thrive in a world of seismic change?
The government’s new Digital Strategy, which applies the framework of the recently launched Industrial Strategy to the digital economy across the country addresses this. Written to leverage the UK’s forming post-Brexit position as a beacon of global free trade as outlined by the Prime Minister in her Brexit speech at Lancaster House in January, the strategy identifies some of the key barriers that are stopping businesses utilising digital technologies: citing the low priority of digital transformation, lack of skills amongst the workforce and poor connectivity. Following on from its also recently published Transformation Strategy, it admits to its own challenges in developing an effective, single cross-government platform, or, Government-as-a-Platform service to UK citizens.
Resonating with the recent OECD recommendations of boosting sluggish global growth by targeted fiscal means, the Digital Strategy identifies seven strands as critical in helping UK businesses to become more digitally enabled, and deliver on the growth expectations. From infrastructure, skills, innovation, productivity, cyber security, smart technologies, and big data, each strand recognises the benefits of partnering with knowledgeable and proactive businesses on their digital transformation journey.
While it sets out areas of focus and outlines actions that the government can take immediately, Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is keen to acknowledge that it is a working framework, not a single document; serving as an ‘ongoing conversation between digital businesses and government’ to help instigate and propagate digitalisation across UK businesses. The metaphorical door is open, says Karen, to digital industries to offer their opinion on “how government and industry can collaborate to enable growth in new sectors of the future that emerge around the new technologies and new business models.”
But perhaps most importantly, the strategy is a step in the right direction because it recognises that to successfully transform the UK into the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, government and businesses must harness the power of the three big drivers of 21st-century change: globalisation, responsibility and technology.
As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognises, the world economy remains in a low-growth trap, but if UK business can take advantage of low interest rates, low inflation and high liquidity, and invest in the right digital technologies in the right way it will help catapult the UK towards becoming a global leader of digital enterprise. Embracing new technologies will allow UK businesses to venture into new markets and new geographies, increase ethical sustainability and make them more cyber-secure. To do this businesses must be incentivised to invest in new technologies, and what’s more incentivising than growth and prosperity?
Globalisation: The connected strategy
The seven strands in the Digital Strategy are further amplified by what we at IFS call the ‘connected strategy’, which enables real time strategic and operational decision making and resulting actions - being driven directly from source data. Collectively this provides businesses with the skills and innovative cultures to drive change in connection with their broader business goals, and fulfil government’s calls to step up into a strategically enabled digital economy fit for the future - ready to take advantage of new horizons in post-Brexit Britain.
In a globalised economy where only change is unchanging, the solutions enterprises adopt must be as connected as the challenges they face. Previously, board members were afforded the luxury of producing a fixed 5-year strategy, however, stakeholders, employees, partners and customers can now communicate faster than ever before, rendering this approach irrelevant. What businesses must do is transparently relay their corporate vision and strategy right through the layers of their business and connect it directly to their underlying source data by investing in connected management software technologies.
Corporate responsibility and technology
The Digital Strategy states verbatim that “businesses that use data to help automate functions and inform decisions are around 10 per cent more productive”. This statistic will only continue to grow. Service response times are measured in minutes and seconds, not hours or days, and performance data is becoming ubiquitous and available 24/7 for businesses to act upon. Connected strategies should therefore integrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), sustainability, environmental and HR goals, not as peripheral add-ons but core KPIs. We’ve seen plenty of examples where businesses have paid the price for overlooking their CSR and for not incorporating it as part of their corporate strategy. Connected strategy is making sure that your business can respond to real-time events to be a lot more responsible.
Building skills around data understanding, data cleansing and data analytics will also be key to delivering a coordinated, effective connected strategy. Investing in enterprise management software technologies to make better sense of data in real-time will benefit corporate strategy and growth ambitions, as well as ensure businesses are flexible and responsive enough to adapt in an unpredictable, volatile business landscape.
As the strategy addresses, in a post-Brexit landscape, it is just as important for UK businesses to develop home-grown talent and up-skill its workforce to be digitally competent. Drawing from source data and utilising the right management software can help those responsible to recognise and act upon the skills their company need to help plug its digital gap, venture into new markets, quickly integrate emerging technologies such as IoT and Artificial Intelligence, and be ready for business and political change.
Steve Treagust, Global Industry Director for Finance, HCM & Strategy at IFS
Image source: Shutterstock/Ekaphon maneechot