Given the column inches it gets, you could be forgiven for thinking that tech, and especially tech of a “disruptive” persuasion, has become such a vital part of any organisations’ overall business strategy, the role of an enterprise’s IT and Communications Technology (ICT) decision makers has never been more vital.
A decade ago all an IT manager might have had to worry about is installing the latest version of Microsoft Windows, but times have changed beyond recognition and that has made ICT manager’s lives far harder.
A new study produced by Capita Technology Solutions and Intel has attempted to shed more light on how ICT decision makers across the legal, finance, insurance and manufacturing industries evaluate, implement, and keep up to date with new technology; and how they separate the truly innovative from gimmicky flash-in-the-pans.
And yet, the real story here seems to be that even ICT decision makers are having a tough time figuring out what to do with all the new technology they now have access too, and an even harder time selling the vision to the rest of their firm.
Says Adam Jarvis, MD of Technology Solutions at Capita ICT, about the report “Cutting through the hype surrounding each new piece of tech can be a challenge, with each new tool being touted as the next big game changer for business across the board.”
“But there is no doubt that some emerging technologies do have the potential to completely transform not just the way we work but our society as a whole. We are now at a crucial stage where, as far as some of these trends are concerned, it is time to disrupt or be disrupted.”
But which ones, and how?
Predictably, the research found that 78% of IT decision makers questioned rated keeping track of new technologies as either vital, or very important, whilst 88% agreed that responding to IT trends within their businesses can result in financial gains being made by the company, and 86% that new tech can lead to a competitive advantage over rival companies.
The underlying issue, however, is implementation. Whilst 90% of ICT decision makers say they recognise big data is relevant to their industry, for example, only 64% say that it is being implemented within their firms.
50% of respondents felt that AI could be relevant to their businesses, but the data showed technology was only being implemented at 25% of firms – only 8% of those questioned said AI was being adopted within their own organisations.
The same goes for IoT – 70% of respondents felt it was relevant, but adoption rates were as low as 25%.
And to a lesser degree, wearable tech, too – 46% agreed on its relevance, but implementation was revealed to be just 10%. The best performing trend in this regard was the Cloud (84% agreed on relevance, 66% industry-wide implementation, 56% said was being applied within their own company); the worst, VR (31%, 12%, 6%).
The reasons for the lack of implementation were identified as “management pushback”, “risk aversion”, and “Lack of vision”. Although everyone can agree on the perceived benefits of new and disruptive tech, it seems, far fewer business people are prepared to take the plunge and bring it into the workplace.
Only one out of three decision makers questioned (29%) felt that cloud-based solutions would be ready for implementation within the next 12 months, for example – and just 34% felt it would happen within 5 years.
90% agreed IoT is more than 12 months away from successful implementation, and one in every five respondents felt 3D Printing would never catch on; 15% said the same for AI, and VR.
Awareness and in-depth understanding of new tech trends and their benefits was also worryingly sketchy – just 15% of respondents claimed to understand 3D printing “very well”, whilst 34% said they understood robotics “not at all”, and 23% said the same about AI. Particularly surprising, perhaps, given those surveyed were the one person within a firm counted upon to beat the drum for new tech.
Still, many respondents (32%) who had implemented IoT agreed they could see the “increased operational efficiency” that it could deliver, whilst 32% of those yet to implement said they felt that improved customer service was the primary perceived benefit.
Security is another stumbling block, with 31% labelling it the biggest challenger to adoption of new tech.
Interestingly, the biggest perceived benefit amongst those who had installed some AI services, was increased staff safety. So much for robots taking over the world.
But, according to Capita and Intel, the biggest surprise was the “skills gap” that was preventing businesses adopting technology despite having reached the conclusion (possibly more by accident than design) that it would be beneficial to the firm.
71% of respondents said they lacked the skills necessary to identify the opportunities offered by IoT, whilst 74% said they lacked the skills to properly introduce the tech to their workplace. The same was broadly true of wearbales, Big Data and AI / Robotics – 80% said they lacked both the skills to implement robotics, and to keep track of new developments.
The report concludes that: “it is becoming clear that many businesses are not properly equipped to be able to identify which trends they should be focusing on, and may be on the verge of failing to spot the bigger picture – how these trends could transform their industries going forward.”
The survey was completed by 125 ICT decision makers, and supplemented by 12 in-depth interviews to explore the issues in more detail. Trends discussed were primarily big data, wearables, AI and robotics and the cloud. 50% of respondents represented firms with more than 10,00 employees, whilst 29% were drawn from start-ups with less than 350 staff.
Those capable of spotting trends early and implementing them successfully and rapidly, may be grabbing the headlines, largely because of the vast sums of investment firms with the right tech credentials can attract, and the vast profits they subsequently make, but it seems most firms remain stuck in the dark ages, with even their ICT decision makers struggling to separate the wheat from the chaff, or persuade others of potentially “disruptive” benefits.