In-depth research commissioned by Sungard Availability Services explores attitudes towards digital transformation by employees and the IT department itself. Likening IT to a bear, it concludes that at its best, IT is a powerful weapon for growth but at its worst, can be slow and unpredictable and, if put under pressure, is liable to lash out or go into hibernation.

Taming the IT bear – staying in control of the organisation’s IT - is one of the CIO’s biggest challenges, a task made more difficult by increasing demand for digital-first tools from the wider business. It’s about ensuring the right conditions to keep the bear predictable and productive, while exploiting its power to make the changes necessary to keep the organisation competitive.

The Vanson Bourne study, involving 1,400 respondents across a variety of industries in the UK, Ireland, France, Sweden and the US, showed the wider business fully appreciates the importance of IT as a powerful tool with 81% considering access to the latest technology vital. Looking into the reasons why, 69% say it makes it easier to do their job, almost half (48%) claim it makes them more productive, while 55% say it makes their job more exciting and 63% that it has enabled them to develop new skills.

Consequently, digital transformation is now regarded as a priority for 86% of business. However, IT complexity can hinder digital transformation and delivering IT to the business is far from being a walk in the park.

Yawning skills gaps appear

Almost half of employees believe their current employer is behind competitors when it comes to adopting the latest digital tools and technologies. Indeed, over half (52%) of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) fear that they are not transforming digitally at the speed their management team expects. This is largely due to an inability to integrate new applications into existing technologies. Overall, 40% of respondents cite this as a missing skill, a figure that rises to 50% for the UK.

Questioned about the biggest technical skills gap hindering digital transformation, this was identified as the main problem by 39% of US respondents and 39% in France. However, in Ireland, maintaining effective security across the different IT systems was the biggest issue for 41%. The problems appear to run deeper in Sweden where 39% cited the lack of an existing solid IT infrastructure on which to build a digital transformation.

As for the biggest soft skills gaps, while communicating the benefits of digital transformation to senior leadership was highlighted in the US (39%), Ireland (57%) and Sweden (46%), understanding the business benefits of digital communication appears to be a more fundamental issue in the UK (46%) and France (40%).

Lack of investment continues to be a bugbear

Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) believe they are not getting the financial investment required from the wider team to effect digital transformation. This is wreaking havoc on the business with potential impacts including:

  • Staff retention suffers - Nearly a quarter of employees (23%) questioned have actually left a place of employment as it did not enable digital working practices – a figure that rises to 32% in the US
  • Productivity plummets – 84% feel digital transformation helps improve productivity
  • Loss of competitive advantage – The same proportion cite digital transformation as being critical to remain competitive in their industry

To varying degrees, the wider business looks to the IT department to step up, 'Tame the Bear' and help drive this change. IT are regarded as being the strongest driver by 55% overall with significant regional variations. In the US this rises to 82% while in Ireland and Sweden, it drops to just 38% and 25% respectively. Unsurprisingly, 81% of IT decision-makers said they were looking to recruit new employees with the right digital skills to achieve transformation goals.

Although 26% of ITDMs see the CTO as key in supporting the IT department’s drive for digital transformation, the CDO (19%) and CEO (13%) are also seen as important figures. Many (68%) also recognised the value of bringing in additional external support to give the digital transformation process teeth.

We will be focusing on various aspects of this study over the coming months. View the full research findings and developments here.

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