Patrick Sarnacke, Managing Director at Thoughtworks UK, a global technology consultancy, discusses how tech proficient businesses that discuss technology frequently have a distinct advantage as we re-emerge from the pandemic
Too many businesses still think about tech as something that can be plugged in; a separate department that keeps things running but not central to the company’s thinking; or an item on a shopping list to upgrade. But the events that have taken place over the past 18 months have meant cracks have started to emerge with this thinking.
Earlier this year, Thoughtworks carried out research of around a thousand C-suite business leaders from 12 different countries, looking at their level of proficiency when it came to business technology, and its bearing on business confidence and long-term goals.
It found that, against the backdrop of businesses recovering from the most seismic challenges in living memory, there was a direct link between how digitally proficient a company is, and its likelihood to be anticipating growth in the coming months.
Four in five businesses that described themselves as fully proficient said they anticipated growth in 2021. This fell to 50% among enterprises that recognized their tech proficiency was behind the competition.
In addition, businesses that discussed technology frequently, and were run by a tech-proficient leadership team, were almost twice as likely to be anticipating growth in the coming months as those who did not.
Issues such as digital transformation, cloud computing, data strategy, and software platforms were far more likely to be discussed at board level at least once a month among growing businesses than those that were not growing. Businesses that admitted being held back by their tech capabilities were four times less likely to have board-level discussions about digital transformation and operations each month than businesses that described themselves as technologically advanced.
Not understanding the problems, not knowing how to implement or manage them, or a feeling that they were not a priority, comprise the list of reasons for not giving these areas more attention.
Comparing UK businesses to those in other countries, the research suggested that despite high levels of tech-proficiency, the number of times that core technology issues are discussed in UK management and leadership meetings was less than the global average. More than half of businesses in the UK admitted that issues such as enterprise modernization were discussed either never, once a year or slightly more than once a year. By contrast, more than half of leaders in the US, Australia, or Brazil were discussing the same issue at board level at least once a month.
Talking about technology matters. Boards that regularly discuss how technology can help improve all aspects of their business are better placed to make decisions that will improve competitiveness, make them agile and more resilient in the face of unpredictable and changing economic conditions.
Technology isn’t just about hardware or software products that can be plugged in to solve a problem. It is about the culture of an organization – and that culture starts at the top. Today’s CEO needs to be as well versed in data strategy, platform capability and engineering excellence, as they are about sales, marketing and accounts. These will all have an influence on future business performance.
In this new economic climate, business executives, managers and entrepreneurs will become more reliant than ever upon software, platforms and data to ensure their business remains competitive, and they can expand into markets and increase profitability.
The rate at which things are changing, accelerated in part by people’s reliance on technology during the pandemic, underlines the importance of acting now. The gap between tech proficient companies and those that struggle with tech will only get wider.