‘Technology by itself will not drive any transformation in business’

30 Sep 2019

David Lee, PwC. Image: Siliconrepublic.com

PwC partner David Lee analyses the results of an annual Irish CEO survey, which revealed an interest in applying technology strategies but highlighted an information gap to overcome.

Irish analysis from PwC’s latest annual global CEO survey was titled ‘Finding growth in an uncertain world’, as CEOs in Ireland head into a potentially rocky period with one of the market’s major trading partners.

In the survey, 44pc of Irish CEOs said the UK is their number one territory for growth in the year ahead, even in the face of continued Brexit uncertainty.

However, 70pc of Irish CEOs are planning on driving revenue through organic growth. PwC partner David Lee says this turn inward is likely a response to the current economic environment, yet he cautioned against interpreting this as a desire to continue business as usual.

‘Organisations who are successful are not just driving better integration between their business and IT functions but they’re putting the human at the centre of that experience’

“CEOs recognise that there is both an opportunity and a significant need to drive further value from existing business operations, and that’s across the dimensions of cost, customer engagement and staff engagement,” he said.

“From a cost consideration perspective … clearly technology has a huge role to play in that, both in terms of the adoption of traditional technologies to automate processes but also the appropriate use of emerging technologies in the areas robotics and artificial intelligence.”

When it comes to applying a technology strategy to effect meaningful transformation in challenging times, Lee also warned against taking too narrow a focus on technology.

“Technology implementation by itself will not drive any transformation in the business,” he said, and encouraged organisations to take a “holistic” approach that looks at the changes required from different points of view, from processes to organisation to culture.

“Those organisations who focus explicitly on the adoption phase of programmes are those that are differentiating themselves in terms of return [on investment].”

On the topic of improving integration between business and technology, Lee said this debate has moved on. “The next evolution of that is organisations who are successful are not just driving better integration between their business and IT functions but they’re putting the human at the centre of that experience. And that human may be the employee, it may be the end consumer, it may be the customer, it may be the supplier.”

Overcoming the information gap

Data is now seen as a key driver of business decision-making, but Irish CEOs are less confident that the data they actually have is comprehensive enough to be applicable. This ‘information gap’ is caused by a number of factors, according to Lee.

“The first is that organisations, historically, haven’t really focused on data as an asset within the organisation. Therefore, clarity in relation to governance and management of data within the organisation hasn’t been clear,” he said.

“The second factor is that, traditionally, both organisations and the systems they’ve had to support them have been quite siloed. So the ability of management to get an end-to-end view of either processes or data has been a challenge.”

Finally, Lee said that the third barrier to the use of data is absence of appropriate skills. “The ability to attract and retain the skills necessary to support the necessary data and analytics activities [is] challenging,” he said.

“Those skills don’t reside just within the IT function. There’s a need to bolster business functions – whether that be finance, HR, operations or supply chain – with those skills also.”

To achieve lasting results, Lee advised that any investment in technology should be grounded within an appropriate data management framework and governance.

“Rather than the temptation of running to invest heavily in technology, a more appropriate step for a first step for organisations would be to take the time out to understand the data lifecycle from the time the organisation acquires that data to the time that it retires it or archives that data.”

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.