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UK businesses struggle with digital transformation, Dell customer survey finds

Tamlin Magee | Oct. 12, 2016
Businesses are more cautious in the mature technology markets, with calamitous results evident on the high street - in contrast to more of a digital-native culture in emerging economies.

Independent research commissioned by Dell and conducted by Vanson Bourne has found that the majority of British businesses feel ill-prepared for digital transformation - and fear that they may be made obsolete.

Dell executives also told Computerworld UK that there are major discrepancies in the mature markets versus emerging economies such as India, places which were unencumbered by legacy infrastructure that needed replacing.

Vanson Bourne surveyed 4,000 medium to large enterprises across 16 countries and 12 industries for the Dell 'Digital Transformation Index', and found that nearly half of all businesses - at 41 percent - are uncomfortable with the pace of change, and have noted "significant disruption" over the last three years. And there is a sizeable portion - 32 percent - which believe that their businesses could be made completely obsolete in the coming years.

Dell believes the recipients can be broken down into five different fairly self-explanatory categories: leaders, adopters, evaluators, followers and laggards. The bottom three set take up the lion's share of the results - with 41 percent lumped into the 'followers' set, with very few digital investments and some tentative planning for the future, 19 percent in the 'laggards' class, with no plan at all, and 24 percent in 'evaluators', who are very gradually embracing a more digital approach.

One aim of the study was to clarify just what digital means exactly - as with the emergence of the cloud, many companies found themselves boasting of being cloud-native or in similar buzz-y sounding terms, but didn't truly understand what that meant.

Similarly with digital transformation, it's a term that is cloaked in different interpretations: some organisations might think it means simply building an app or bringing in some new kit.

Dell's director for cloud at Dell EMC UK, Rob Lamb, suggested digital can be summed up generally as software-heavy back-office infrastructure, using cloud for burst capacity, scalability, and crucially, an understanding of agile and devops to help businesses release quickly.

But for those that aren't doing all they can in the digital space, well, the effects are plain to see on the high street.

"A third are worried that they're going to be made obsolete," Lamb said. "Look at what's happened on the UK high street - BHS is gone, people are shopping in different ways. Austin Reed is gone, they weren't keeping up with any form of different buying behaviours. Just this week Argos has gone large to try and compete with Amazon to deliver same day. So you're seeing this happening pretty much across the board.

"In terms of where the respondents felt the pressure coming from, it's a combination of those digital startups: companies with no inventory or infrastructure," he continued.


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