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Why 2020 needs to be the year organisations address ‘digital chaos’

(Image credit: Ditty_about_summer)

These regulations have forced organisations to change the way they operate. This is without even considering Brexit – a monumental challenge – which is distracting many organisations from moving ahead with technology adoption. It all makes proactive business planning near impossible. In fact, Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee said Brexit had contributed to the UK’s slow adoption of automation by suppressing business investment.

All organisations know they need to digitally transform – it’s what will help alleviate the pressures of running a business as well as ensure they are prepared for the real and present challenges in the UK. What’s more, it will accelerate business growth and boost staff productivity.

And we aren’t short of research showing us technology’s enormous potential.

The Cloud in particular is earning a reputation as the kingpin of the digital world. In fact, Gartner projects the market size and growth of the Cloud services market to reach nearly three times the growth of overall IT services by 2022. Meanwhile, automation and wearable technologies as well as chatbots are fast earning their spot as must-have tools in the day-to-day workplace.

In fact, according to Advanced’s Annual Trends Survey for 2019-20, 38 per cent of business decision makers are seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their daily working lives – up from 26 per cent last year – while 29 per cent are seeing chatbots (up from 18 per cent). One in four are seeing wearable technology and, perhaps most remarkably, 26 per cent are seeing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – a 15 per cent jump in 12 months.

What’s clear, then, is that there is a growing appetite to adopt innovative technologies. Perception is changing (and rightly so) with these so-called disruptive tools being given a bad name over the years, with the threat of robots taking people’s jobs. The truth is these tools are far more likely to change job roles for the better because they are eliminating repetitive and mundane processes, leaving staff to focus on what they do best. Simply put, technology is a no brainer!

However, the journey to becoming digital-by-default isn’t straightforward. There are a host of mandatory regulations that businesses need to contend with. Last year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took centre stage and, this year, Making Tax Digital has been in the limelight.

Minimal disruption

And the challenges don’t stop there. Many of the systems needed to underpin these innovative technologies are outdated and simply not fit enough for the opportunities and challenges of the future. The problem is, according to the same Advanced report, 48 per cent of business leaders agree that the biggest barrier to organisations modernising their processes or systems is cost.

Disruption to staff’s day-to-day productivity trails behind at 27 per cent, followed by management being unconvinced by the recommended investment in new technology (25 per cent) and a lack of skills (20 per cent). And 16 per cent blame concerns about project delays.

Unless these barriers to modernisation are addressed, organisations are at risk of facing digital chaos. Failure to update and transform the legacy systems that are the backbone of technologies like AI, chatbots and RPA will only prevent organisations from truly innovating and growing.

As the biggest barrier to successful digital transformation, cost clearly needs to be addressed. The reality is that it is more expensive for organisations not to invest in modern systems, as the dependence on ageing technology creates unnecessary, and often significant, cost.

Core legacy business applications, for example, often consume a high share of a company’s IT budget. In fact, there are plenty of statistics which suggest that maintaining and operating legacy applications consumes anywhere between 60 and 80 per cent of corporate IT budgets.

What’s worrying is that many businesses are willing to bear the large cost because they believe it provides a level of robustness, stability, performance and scalability that can’t be found elsewhere. The truth is they could be redirecting this money to move to modern and integrated systems that will bring them all of these benefits, as well as a greater competitive advantage in the future.

And, done right, they can migrate with minimal disruption to staff and without delays. Also, staff are more likely to have the required skills to use these solutions when compared to legacy technologies. The reason is that employees who have spent decades managing legacy applications, for example, are now beginning to retire – taking the vital skills they have acquired with them – while today’s workforce are already familiar with modern tools like the Cloud and business intelligence analytics.

The bottom line is that businesses shouldn’t run before they can walk. If they are to digitally transform, and satiate the increasing appetite for innovative technologies, they first need a strategy that acknowledges the need to change systems and processes. 2020 needs to be the year that organisations prioritise reducing the barriers to digital transformation. Only then will they be able to properly reap the benefits of the digital-first era – and find calm in the chaos.

Jon Wrennall, CTO, Advanced