As 2023 continues to be challenging for many businesses, budget restrictions and a lack of technological infrastructure means they will have to reassess what they need to do to drive growth. Research commissioned by DocuSign shows that 74% of UK businesses say they don’t feel like they’re on a strong footing to deal with future change – compounding the issue. A key problem businesses face is where to prioritise their efforts so they can prepare themselves for what comes next.
A successfully deployed infrastructure is the bedrock of any business. It’s the technology foundation that supports a company’s business strategy, powers its operations and its ability to innovate, and it is critical to the future-preparedness and success of any organisation. In fact, innovations such as becoming a digital-first company are seen as one of the most critical factors in enabling their ability to capitalise on opportunities by a third (33%) of all UK firms, and 43% of UK enterprises.
But that innovation cannot happen without the right skills in place, something that the research indicates is lacking. Over half (55%) of the businesses surveyed ranked digital and technical skills as one of the most important to ensure they’re ready to harness opportunities. However, 18% are facing a lack of such digital and technical skills that enable them to capitalise on market opportunities. There is a silver lining though.
Learning from peers
While the research identified that the majority do not feel fully ready for the future, there is a small but powerful contingent of British businesses that do feel ready, and which can offer a learning experience for others. The research discovered that those companies that consider themselves most resilient and well-positioned to capitalise on the future have already heavily invested or are looking to significantly invest in their infrastructure. This is driven mostly by a desire to increase productivity and business output (41%) and support flexible working, collaboration and information sharing (40%).
Further investigation shows that the importance placed on increasing productivity and output as drivers of technology infrastructure rises to 48% among start-ups, vs 33% of enterprise-based respondents. This divergent response based on company size suggests that embedding technologies that enable future readiness into the business at an early stage could potentially enhance efficiencies to make a more productive organisation, rather than relying on or retrofitting legacy systems.
Getting the infrastructure right
Having the right infrastructure in place is crucial to any business looking to drive future change. That is why half have already invested in digital tools for their needs that will enable them to create the infrastructures that support employees and stakeholders to be more collaborative and deliver greater productivity.
Half of all businesses surveyed have already made investments in physical employee infrastructure in the last two years, while over a third (36%) have deployed work management solutions, such as Contract Lifecycle Management, project management or electronic signature solutions, enabling seamless workflows to be actioned regardless of location or time. In some cases, within legal firms, the time saving could be as much as 600 hours per month.
The investment hurdle
However, the cost is already holding back 44%, and companies will have to make even more informed investment choices, such as countering the perception that it can take too long to see improvements come to fruition. One in five (22%) businesses believe that investment in modern infrastructure wouldn’t see returns fast enough to justify the spending, hampering the potential for growth. In such cases, where the intention exists to adopt new technologies, it’s critical that businesses look at solutions that can overcome these barriers by being affordable, scalable and customisable to their specific needs.
The most influential drivers for change and therefore worthy of investment included better agility (34%) - where better connectivity around business functions, reducing silos and enabling better access to data, were seen as key priorities - and speed (31%) enabling the automating and streamlining of processes to facilitate productivity and business growth. With the right solution in place, both are achievable. But where should those organisations looking to kick-start their journey to future readiness make their investments?
Building the tech stack
For those that either have already or are considering the investment in new digital approaches, the potential to harness future opportunities could grow significantly.
53% of enterprise businesses have already deployed digitised workflows across their operations, while 36% are already using AI to support business strategies – 40% of SMEs plan to initiate the process in the next twelve months.
One such example is property agent SHB Real Estate, which saw a 5% increase in its win rate thanks to more digital initiatives. Another, Funding Circle, found that, by digitising its application process, it was able to reduce the time it takes to process a loan from two days down to just one hour.
A third of all organisations said they also plan to implement digital solutions that enable them to eliminate the time spent manually searching for information – demonstrating that time is the most critical factor for and a primary driver for investment as it enables a refocusing on added value tasks rather than administrative ones, such as manual searches.
Striking the balance between what the business needs, having the expertise in place and the budget to invest will always be a challenge. With cost likely to become a larger blocker, finding cost-effective and flexible human-centric solutions that can grow with the organisation will be fundamental to creating a company ready for the future.