IMage credit Von nd3000 Used under sub license from AZKMedia (2021) , The image we provided is from ENVATO: has published an eBook titled Business Future Index, supported by an infographic highlighting some key data points from a survey of 3,450 respondents across 12 global markets. The full eBook is available on request and examines the impacts and benefits of digital acceleration. It looks at the state of digitisation within businesses and the impact of the digitisation acceleration on talent, ESG and business performance. The authors also dive into the working environment and the technology powering the acceleration.

While Unit4 states that the eBook is available on request, it appears to be available from a current hyperlink on the infographic. The report highlights the importance of people strategies and reveals that the biggest priorities in the year ahead are:

  • Attracting and retaining talent (people) – 62%
  • Building out new products and services to deliver added value – 59%
  • Digital transformation – 59%

It underlines the importance of flexible working, with a complete mix of working policies. 37% offer flexible hours, 31% offer complete flexibility between home and office and 31% mandate some time in the office, though this was not expanded to how many. In addition, 55% apply flexible working across the organisation.

Tania Garrett, Chief People Officer. Unit4
Tania Garrett, Chief People Officer. Unit4

Tania Garrett, Chief People Officer, Unit4, commented, “Given the need to attract a broad spectrum of talent into organizations from different demographic groups to meet demand for skills, the Business Future Index shows businesses must make diversity a higher priority.”

This view is not completely backed by the data, with only 25% planning to improve diversity within their organizations. Garrett added, “Along with investing more in reskilling their existing workforce to help meet future requirements, the Index clearly shows there is a close correlation between investment in innovative technologies and a positive impact on recruitment and retention.”

The key findings from the report

Besides the priorities above, there are some noteworthy findings. Organisations that have digitised already have seen significant benefits, including better well-being (74%), employees being more collaborative (82%) and more productive (84%). Another advantage of digital transformation is that organisations seek talent from wider afield, with 49% recruiting from a wider geographical area powered by remote working.

There are areas that still need improvement, though:

  • 76% believe flexible working policies need improving
  • 89% involved in forecasting are finding it challenging to do accurately

Organisations have accelerated digital transformation (52%), flexible working (52%) and cybersecurity (32%) in the last year. The latter data point seems low, considering the current threat landscape. However, the authors do not flag this as a concern.

ESG is slowly increasing in importance, with 69% of organizations feeling better able to meet ESG and CSR goals partly because of the accelerations they’re experiencing.

Perhaps one of the most surprising data points is that focus on technology adoption. In most industry segments, a minority of organisations have adopted key technology such as cloud migration, data management tools, real-time reporting tools, workflow automation and AI/Machine learning.

The finance team is also struggling; many are looking to invest in this function. 52% say they will invest in technology to improve financial management processes, 48% are looking to automate processes, and 48% will undertake skills training.

Why the Business Index disappoints

The 27-page long eBook is not a difficult read. Many of the pages are mainly images or simple data graphics; the text accompanying the data is often no more than a few sentences explaining rather than analysing the data points. The survey was quantitative as there are no quotes from the respondents or even customers within the eBook.

While the eBook has a slightly confusing structure, it provides some interesting data points from an extensive survey across multiple nations and industries. It would have been good to see some analysis to highlight differences across different nations or industries. One exception is the top priorities, where finding and retaining talent was above average (62%). The public sector (68%) and higher education (70%) sectors were the highest.

Another area of interest is the trend information from the 2021 Index. These show some very interesting insights, for example:

  • In 2022, 51% of organisations are performing above target, compared to 34% in 2021
  • In 2022 60% exceeded profit expectations for the previous three years (2021, 51%)
  • Organisation resilience also increased from 63% (2021) to 67% (2022)
  • Sustainability performance has improved, with 24% doing well in meeting sustainability goals in 2022 (2021 – 19%)

The lack of further comparisons is a missed opportunity.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Considering the scope of the survey, this report disappoints. The weak conclusion includes the rather bland statement, “This year, we see a much greater sense of urgency. Risks bring reward, and if an organization fails to embrace acceleration, it is in danger of being left behind.”

Hopefully, Unit4 will leverage the data in future blogs, delving into the industry and regional differences and explaining why the respondents have responded as they have.


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