A new perspective on digital transformation

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The UK must build on its innovative foundations and focus on leading the way to a future underpinned by the next generation of responsible technologies.

Living through a global pandemic has driven dramatic shifts in our:

  • jobs
  • commitments
  • communication
  • eating habits
  • childcare
  • collective sense of time.

We are still experiencing a global pandemic, however nearly every aspect of our world has transformed in the past year.

Working from home with pets and kids

Credit: Drazen_, Getty Images

Our family, friends, colleagues, and communities have had their lives changed in critical ways. We have already started re-evaluating our:

  • needs
  • living and working conditions
  • self-care and financial needs
  • exercise and study regimes
  • what we consume, and how we consume the things we love.

Everything is changing

We are undeniably living in a world that is transitioning. We are facing a new environment and witnessing how systems are changing for people and the planet.

On the supply side, the pandemic has also pushed companies to transform. We’ve seen tremendous growth in digitisation, meaning everything from online customer service to remote working to supply-chain reinvention to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve operations.

Jobs of C-level executives and jobs at different levels of organisations responsible for their companies’ digital activities have also been transformed by the pandemic.

Digital shift

For several years digital had already been reshaping when the pandemic hit:

  • industries
  • value chains
  • business models
  • customer experience
  • service operations.

However, looking back, during COVID-19, we are seeing, unsurprisingly, the speed in creating digital or digitally enhanced offerings. The rate at which companies have developed these products and services.

Overall, many companies focused on growth by driving revenues with digital rather than decreasing their costs. We could see digital adoption being highest within the product or service development and service operation functions.

Innovation support from government

The pandemic also forced a rapid response from government in its innovation support.

New funding mechanisms were established, and grants and payment flexibilities offered to those with existing innovation projects. This investment came as part of the wider £1.25 billion business support package announced by the Chancellor, £750 million of which is being delivered by Innovate UK.

With this funding and extraordinary support from Innovate UK’s incredibly passionate colleagues whilst remote working, we put together the Fast Start competition. The competition could be deployed quickly and could work effectively for as many businesses as possible.

Ingenuity and drive to innovate

Innovate UK has worked alongside UK businesses to harness their ingenuity and drive to innovate through the challenges they faced.

The business response to these opportunities has been significant, and many of those applying for new funding did not have previous experience of receiving public support for innovation. This suggested to us that more firms were thinking about innovation as a key enabler for resilience and growth, helping to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the crisis.

The Innovate UK support rapidly helped them not only address the pandemic issues but also to re-think their businesses and innovation strategies. What’s more, a large proportion of applicants were small enterprises, highlighting an increased appetite for innovation.

We continue our support and are offering innovation loans to businesses aiming to develop new products, processes, or services to significantly improve the UK economy.

Digital transformation concept, Binary code and AI

Credit: metamorworks, Getty Images

Building on strong foundations

Digital transformation is more of a transformational change challenge than it is a digital problem. It is a leadership problem… It is about envisioning the future and inspiring, and driving change to revolutionise human affairs, transform societies, and maximise the benefits of digital technologies and distribute equitably across society.

In the post pandemic era, the UK is digital ready, and to scale up its effort the following five areas are where organisations should focus their digital initiatives:

  1. Better leverage of data and knowledge assets.
  2. Focusing on Hx (human experience), both customer and employee experience.
  3. Strategic leadership, people power at the core of digital ready culture.
  4. Seeing people and machine as an intrinsic part of decision making.
  5. Driving new business models.

The UK has impressive pockets of innovation, strong academic foundations, and significant pools of talent. To make digital transformation happen, the UK has got to:

  • build on its innovative foundations
  • double down on what’s already working, and the initiatives that will most benefit the UK economy
  • focus on creating the future to lead the way to a better prosperous future underpinned by the next generation of responsible technologies.

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