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UK firms living in fear of obsolescence as competitive threat posed by startups grows

Dell Technologies survey suggests UK firms are living in fear of disruption from nimbler startups and overseas competitors

Nearly a third of UK firms (32%) fear their brand could disappear over the next three-to-five years, as a result of increased competition from startups and nimbler overseas competitors.

That’s according to research, carried out on behalf of Dell Technologies by Vanson Bourne, into how mid-sized firms and enterprises view their organisation’s digital transformation efforts.

Around two-thirds (65%) said they feel threatened by the ability of startups to out-innovate and disrupt the marketplace they operate in, with 41% of UK firms claiming to have first-hand experience of this already.

When it comes to addressing this threat by undertaking digital transformation projects, respondents cited a number of barriers, including budget constraints, skill shortages and lack support from senior managers.

Speaking at the Dell Technologies Forum in Battersea, London, Rob Lamb, director of cloud for Dell-EMC UK, said part of the problem is that business leaders are still failing to grasp the important role technology can play in helping organisations’ sharpen their competitive edge.

“There is a gap between the boardroom and people trying to deliver and execute [on digital], and a lack of understanding of some of the benefits of digital,” he said.

“You have to find a way of taking some of the costs out of the legacy side because there isn’t a bottomless pit of money you can bring to bear on this,” he added.

Some 4,000 business leaders from 16 countries, spanning 12 industries, took part in the poll, where nearly half (52%) of respondents overall confessed to harbouring concerns about the ability of their firm to ward off competitive threats from more digitally savvy startups.

Gaurav Chand, senior vice-president of Dell’s Infrastructure Solutions Group, said it is not just home-grown competitors that are keeping enterprises on their toes.

Companies from the emerging markets, in particular, can pose a credible threat to many longer established companies operating in the US and UK because they are not weighed down by legacy technology investments.

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“If you look at the more mature countries technologically, and you compare them to countries that have not had years of legacy and technological applications, what you tend to see is them moving towards this notion of digital transformation and disruption at a much faster rate than the US and UK, for example,” said Chand.

“Don’t get me wrong, any mature country is behaving like the UK, opposed to an India, a Mexico or a Brazil.”

While UK firms are feeling fearful about their ability to keep up with their competitors, they are also displaying signs of reticence when it comes to letting go of their legacy IT investments, added Chand.

“Some 65% of respondents said their customers are creating a burning platform for them to undergo this digital transformation,” he said.

“Although IT is reticent towards letting go of legacy IT and investing, customers and users are looking to companies to do that at a greater level in countries such as the UK. This creates an imbalance of customers pushing and IT not 100% ready to go down this journey.

“The tricky part for organisations in the UK is bridging that gap in terms of their ability to move faster and customer expectations,” he added. ... ... ...

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