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Digital fitness missing ingredient in A/NZ organisations

Digital fitness is the missing ingredient amongst organisations in Australia and New Zealand, according to bew research.

Following a survey of 169 Australian and New Zealand Chief Digital Officers and digital leaders representing companies responsible for 26% of our GDP and 8% of our workforce, local technology research and advisory organisation, ADAPT, has today released the results of its 2023 Digital Edge survey, which outlines the top priorities of, and challenges facing, ANZ's top digital executives.

Matt Boon, Senior Research Director at ADAPT, says the value of digital savviness, that is, the ability of executives to understand the advantages of well-aligned change driven by digital, cannot be overstated when delivering on enterprise goals.

"Digital savviness is the level to which the CEO and board are able to understand and maximise the value from digitisation, and is what's needed to tie tech projects to big-picture goals," Boon says. 

"Without it, companies will fall behind in the emerging tech arms race, and many leaders will keep seeing IT as some mysterious department costing them lots of money, and not as the engine room likely making the difference between strategic success and failure."

Slow march to digital fitness threatening viability of tech projects

When asked about the digital fitness of their employees, referring to employees ability to understand and use the digital tools to carry out their work, Chief Digital Officers said that, on average, 46% of their workforce could not be considered digitally fit. Similarly, digital leaders said the average percentage of their Board and C-suite who are digitally savvy is 54%. 

The survey also revealed a strong correlation between a lack of digital savviness at the C-suite & Board levels and the company's ability to successfully deliver projects: Just 17% of respondents representing companies with digitally savvy executives said their company leaderships lack of digital savviness presented a major barrier to implementing tech initiatives, while a full 53% of digital leaders with non-savvy executives said the issue presents a major barrier to their tech efforts. 

Responsibility of digital skill uplift falling on technology leaders

The survey found that 90% of Chief Information Officers, as well as 54% of Chief Technology/Chief Digital Officers were responsible for the development of digital fitness within their companies, while just 41% of CEOs, and 29% of COOs, were responsible for the same. 

Boon says he believes this mentality of relying on technology leaders to push digital fitness needs changing.

"From securing their organisations to finding staff in a skills shortage, CIOs are frazzled by the day-to-day operational demands of their roles," he says.

"While they are, by nature, often the most tech savvy in the company, they are not necessarily the most business savvy, or the best at explaining the benefits of improved digital fitness to the typical employee. 

"CIOs who successfully build digital fitness in their teams are often those that engage the help of HR teams and the COO, who are often much better placed to explain the why behind the need to build digital skills."

Emerging tech adoption hampered by lack of digital fitness & savviness

ADAPT's research revealed a strong link between levels of digital fitness and skills within an organisation, and that organisations ability to successfully use technology to achieve its strategic goals. Companies with workforces exhibiting low levels of digital fitness experienced major challenges delivering effective new ways of working (42%, as opposed to 28% of digitally fit organisations), saw a major reliance on traditional, non-scalable communication methods (57%), as opposed to 28% of digitally fit organisations), and struggled to effectively deploy emerging technologies. 

Boon warns that without the fundamental, supporting infrastructure of a robust IT culture, many initiatives will fail.

"Those pain-free IT projects returning immediate value that CEOs dream of can only materialise when company leadership understand how to drive successful adoption of the technology through the entire breadth of their workforce, which needs to be digitally fit in its own right."

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