Covid-19 accelerates UK digital transformation efforts by over five years

Over a third of UK business decision-makers believe changes in operations since Covid-19 have increased digital transformation budgets “dramatically”

Research from cloud communications platform provider Twilio has found that the way in which firms have had to react quickly to the “new normal” of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant having to identify new ways to communicate with customers and stakeholders – but with the result of considerably boosting digitisation processes.

In the Covid-19 digital engagement report, Twilio provided a snapshot of how businesses have addressed the complex challenges posed by this crisis and how they will continue to evolve moving forward. It measured the impact and outlook of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses’ digital engagement strategies.

Twilio conducted a five-minute online survey of 2,569 enterprise decision-makers in June 2020. There were 300 UK respondents, and 225 to 300 survey respondents each from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain and the US. Respondents were directors and above at companies with over 500 employees. The survey was designed and analysed by Lawless Research.

Fundamentally Twilio said that for all of its ills, Covid-19 was the digital accelerant of the decade and has accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by a global average of 6 years, with 5.3 years the UK average. As many as 96% of UK enterprise decision makers noted that pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation plans, and of these 66% said it did so ‘a great deal’.

Moreover, the previous inhibitors to innovation have been broken down with just over three-quarters (77%) of UK respondents saying that Covid-19 increased their budget for digital transformation, of which just over a third (36%), more than any other country surveyed, said that it increased ‘dramatically’. Traditional barriers that UK companies reported had now eased included lack of clear strategy (37%), getting executive approval (35%), reluctance to replace legacy software (35%), and lack of time (33%).

While the rising tide of acceleration in transformation was rising all boats, some industry areas were being propelled further and faster than others. Those accelerating their digital transformation most significantly in response to Covid-19 were tech companies (78%), followed by energy (77%), healthcare (74%), construction (71%) and retail (70%). Notably, however, the greatest acceleration in digital communications has been seen by construction businesses (8.1 years) and energy (7.2 years), while retail and e-commerce organisations report an average acceleration of 6.1 years.

As well as virtually all decision makers indicating that the mass remote working has sped up transformation activities, almost all (99%) of businesses surveyed agreed that digital technologies will open up a future of continued remote work. Four-fifths of tech companies answered ‘definitely yes’ (80%), while for retail and healthcare businesses it was 69%, energy 68%, construction 65%, manufacturing and automotive 63% and professional services 62%. Finance was the least definite on this move, at 60%. Almost all global companies (95%) were also are seeking new ways of engaging customers as a result of Covid-19. Some 92% say transforming digital communications is extremely or very critical to address current business challenges.

Read more about the new normal of work

Omnichannel communication was also found to be taking on new importance. 92% of UK businesses say their organisation is very or somewhat likely to expand digital communication channels as the world reopens, with almost two-thirds (60%) very likely. On average the UK saw 5.9 different channels increase in usage dramatically during the pandemic.

Commenting on the findings revealed in the Covid-19 digital engagement report, Twilio chief customer officer Glenn Weinstein, said that over the last few months, years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of Covid-19.

“Our customers in nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders – from patients, to students, to shoppers, and even employees – essentially overnight,” he said. “Cloud scale, speed, and agility are enabling organisations to innovate faster than ever. We believe the solutions being built today will be the standard for digital engagement in the future.”

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