Much has been made of how the pandemic accelerated organizations’ moves to make themselves more digital. However, a recent study indicates that — while many businesses were perhaps surprisingly successful in “pivoting” to a new way of working — that was not always the case. Research from Studio Graphene, a designer and builder of digital products, found that just over half of businesses had successfully adopted one or more new technologies, but that 30% had scrapped unsuccessful technology projects that had been launched since the start of the pandemic. Moreover, 28% of the 750 U.K. business leaders interviewed said their businesses lacked the skills needed to adopt new technology successfully and 29% admitted to struggling to keep pace with technological developments.
In a sign of the divide between businesses that have risen to the challenge and those that have not, 23% of business leaders described themselves as disappointed in their companies’ handling of IT projects during the pandemic, while 54% said that adopting new technologies had been key in enabling them to overcome issues raised by the coronavirus. This more optimistic note is echoed elsewhere in the study. Two-thirds of UK companies indicated they planned to increase the amounts they spend on IT in the coming year, with a similar proportion looking to launch new digital transformation projects.
Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, was encouraged by the findings. He said: “Failure is part and parcel of innovation, so these findings should not discourage businesses that are working to upgrade their technology.” He added that the challenges facing business leaders in the wake of the pandemic were so huge it was “promising to see the majority of companies have successfully adopted new digital tools.”
Indeed, when Studio Graphene carried out a similar study in 2019 it found that 45% of respondents said their organisations were too risk-averse to embrace new technologies. For large businesses, the proportion was much higher, at 70%. “Clearly, the pandemic has changed the picture dramatically. Today, businesses of all sizes are embracing a more open and experimentational mindset,” said Gandhi.
He also welcomed the finding that businesses did not appear to have been put off by the lack of success for some IT projects. Businesses will have learned valuable lessons from trying new things, even those that failed, and this would stand them in good stead as they carried on with digital transformation, he added.
MORE FOR YOU
Of course, this is just a single snapshot, but it has echoes elsewhere. The ability of so many businesses to suddenly shift to remote working is a striking illustration of how resourceful and dedicated so many leaders and their workforces have proven to be. And the fact that even many small businesses suddenly turned themselves into online operations suggests a vibrancy and flexibility in the U.K. economy that has also translated into a swifter-than-expected upturn in the country’s economic picture since the tasing of restrictions started a few weeks ago.
Whether such businesses will continue to operate in this way as things return to something like normal is open to question. Investment bank and others are already indicating that they expect to see employees working in a similar fashion to how they did before last spring. But, even if this does become more usual than many commentators think it will, it does not mean that organizations will not look to continue to apply digital technology to other aspects of their operations. In fact, it is imperative that they do so because, above all, the pandemic has surely taught leaders that they need to be prepared for literally anything and that that involves enthusiastically adopting the flexibility and agility that technology enables.