Surveys show UK (un)ready for digitalization

Martin Banks Profile picture for user mbanks April 24, 2016
Three surveys, from Cisco, Claranet and an IBM/CBI combo, all show in their own way that UK enterprises are poorly prepared to implement and exploit digitalization, and the degree of unreadiness is surprising.

not ready
Not ready yet!

Casting an eye over the results of three separate surveys on various aspects of IT readiness, the bottom line seems to be that most enterprise users, particularly in the UK and Germany, are pretty poor at getting themselves prepared and equipped for current and future trends in IT operations and technologies.

The surveys all appeared in the last week or so, and each one points to deficiencies in the level of management and new operational tools and services used by enterprises to improve the way they do business.

Systems and software vendor Cisco, hosting and cloud service provider Claranet, and a joint effort by IBM and the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) have individually addressed the issue, and found little generating great encouragement. ]

While each of them has its own obvious vested interest in there being as much activity as possible in the take up of new tools and technologies, the apparent lack of interest and use in what is now available to help enterprises be more efficient and effective does have a worrying edge to it.

Take the Cisco survey as an example. This was a major exercise, covering the views of 2,040 of what the company calls 'IT leaders' in eight countries around the globe, with the objective of assessing their digital readiness.

Each was asked 32 questions on their usage of 10 IT technologies and operational areas. A perfect result would be where 100% of interviewees were using or about to use the subject of the question. Global leading countries were found to be scoring at around the 77% mark, while the global laggards were to be found at around the 48% mark.

Both the UK and Germany ranked generally well below that laggard mark, suggesting that users in these two countries have much scope for improving their exploitation of IT.

According to Inbar Lasser-Raab, Cisco’s VP of Product and Solutions Marketing, the key requirements are security policy and practices, and automation and orchestration:

The latter in particular is also seen as a big opportunity for partners in bringing together all the different service delivery and applications types currently in use.

Security is an obvious hot topic, yet in the UK only 40% of users said that they regularly review their security policies, and only 36% do in Germany. What is worse in a way, the global average was only 43%, which may give an indication as to the underlying reason why security breaches seem to be on the increase. And only 24% reckon they are up to 70% compliant with security policies. Some 9% reckon they are only 'at least' 25% compliant

Yet the survey shows security is seen as the biggest single challenge faced by enterprise IT, which seems to suggest a degree of whistling in the dark and praying are amongst the main management strategies.

The survey also shows that there is still little in the way of real automation in use, with both the UK and Germany showing 27% of service requests still start at a helpdesk rather than a self-service portal. Some 64% of the service requests still require human intervention to complete the work.

This can slow service delivery down, as the survey shows. When it comes to delivering IT services to users in under 48 hours the global; average is 44% of enterprises. But in the UK that is only 33%. Where services take a week or more to deliver, the UK comes out worst at 37%, compared to a global average of 31% and 27% in Germany.

The results are even worse for the provision of infrastructure for new services. Globally, 23% of enterprises can do it in less than a week, while in the UK it is only 15%. The UK does beat the global average for achieving this in under one month, but the UK is well behind the curve when it comes to helping staff be effective and productive.

The other major factor the Cisco survey highlights is the global deficiencies in skill sets to exploit the new technologies. For example, in the UK, where 34% see this as a major challenge, this is only one percentage point above the global average.

IBM and the CBI agree

It is also an interpretation supported by the finding of the joint IBM/CBI survey, which goes so far as to suggest that the UK’s economy is now being held back by the reluctance of UK business and commerce to jump onto the digitalization bandwagon.

The pair talk of a 'digital divide' opening up. This comes from the finding that, while 55% of what they call 'pioneer' firms are adopting digital technologies, 45% are now falling seriously behind because they are not, and as the survey reports, the impact is starting to be seen:

Despite the UK taking top place globally for e-commerce and fifth place for the availability of technology, it ranks only fourteenth in the world for company-level adoption of digital technology.

This survey also highlights the lack of appropriate skills to exploit what the technology can offer. This has been a common crie-de-coeur for so long it now starts to be a mystery as to why technology vendors don’t take on-board the obvious need to also develop appropriate tools to allow end users to develop their own applications without recourse to specialist developers.

The other hindrance cited by this survey is what it calls 'connectivity challenges'. For a lot of businesses, simply getting a reliable service – let alone one that adds value in a digitalized world – is a major challenge, as reported several times in diginomica.

The one sadness about this survey is that it falls into the classic trap of suggesting the 'new job title' solution: 

Appoint a Chief Digital or Technology officer to the senior executive team to drive digital strategy and execution.

Most companies these days have a CIO, and who better to deal with whatever is required to innovate, implement and manage whatever is needed to exploit company information to the full?

CTOs do other tasks, and a CDO simply creates a `divide and rule’ environment for the board to play with. What is(still) needed, are CIOs as main board directors and senior managements willing to listen.

And finally…….

Last, but by no means least, the Claranet survey, Innovations in European IT, suggests that we are now in 'a game of two halves' in Europe as France, Spain and Benelux lead the charge on innovative IT management and practices.

This study surveyed 900 IT decision-makers from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Benelux from a range of mid-market organisations, looking at the ways in which they manage and host their applications.

It shows that 72% of applications in Benelux and 64% in France are hosted in the cloud. In the UK the figure is 50%, while Germany and Portugal stand at 55% and 47% respectively. When it comes to DevOps adoption rates the UK, at 26%, lags behind Benelux and France, which stand at 44% and 38% respectively.  Germany and Portugal fare little better, at 28%.

My take

So, whatever the survey, UK enterprises are lagging behind in their use – and possibly even appreciation – of digitalization and the potential of the technologies that make it happen.

There could be many reasons, including the sad state of broadband services through to a lack of skills needed to exploit it or the investment capital needed to make it happen.

It is to be hoped, however, that the reasons are amongst those rather than that UK enterprise managements have no idea what is happening or why it might be important.

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