High trust organisations seek a digital advantage despite barriers

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Achieving a digital advantage - the ability to expeditiously change processes to keep up with advances in today’s connected world - is more important than ever, a new report shows.

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Published by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, Unlocking Digital Advantage in High Trust Sectors addresses the challenges faced by over 120 senior IT and business decision-makers in the UK’s aerospace, government and defence organisations regarding the use of technology to gain an advantage, which is considered vital (85 per cent) to protecting UK society and maintaining the public’s trust.

James Hatch, chief digital officer, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, said high trust organisations are responsible for handling the country’s most sensitive and secret data, which provides the double challenge of accelerating their digital advantage while continuing to deliver critical value to society reliably and responsibly.

Barriers to gaining the digital advantage include hiring and retaining suitably skilled staff plus outside influences such as the so-called Great Resignation and changes brought about by the pandemic.

A lack of confidence around current digital capabilities saw 70 per cent of respondents indicating the need to ‘completely overhaul’ or ‘significantly improve’ their ability to innovate.

Nearly half (46 per cent) of decision-makers dealing with secret or top-secret data, said the nature of this highly sensitive information makes it harder to advance their digital capabilities.

The consequences of not having a digital advantage include an increased threat from adversaries, slower innovation and a reduced ability to protect and serve democracy. 

According to the report, only a fifth (21 per cent) of respondents believe they have achieved digital maturity, which the report defines as ‘the ability to quickly respond to or take advantage of opportunities in the market based on digital technology and remain sustainably and efficiently digitally agile’. By 2027, 44 per cent of high trust organisations expect to be digitally mature, rising to 54 per cent by 2032.

According to Hatch, the past two years have seen several factors increasing the pressure for organisations to improve their digital maturity and advantage, including the pandemic, cyber-attacks, price shocks and increased focus on sustainability.

“This has led to a renewed understanding of and commitment to achieving digital maturity across high trust sectors that comes through in expectations of improvements over the coming 5 or 10 years,” he said. “That commitment will need to be sustained for organisations to make the progress they hope to in the face of technological changes that continue to move the goalposts.”

Hatch added: “Leaders in high trust sectors are developing practices for delivering digital change that are more incremental rather than experimental, allowing them to progress without the very high risk of failure traditionally faced by digital transformation initiatives.”

Despite the many challenges to achieving digital maturity, the report found 83 per cent of respondents agreeing that the reward in doing so is worth it.

Hatch added that there are grounds for optimism regarding hiring and retaining of staff.

“While demand for skills currently outstrips supply there is no shortage of willingness to adopt digital technology and practices, especially from the generations that have grown up with this technology in their private life.” 

The full report can be found at Unlocking Digital Advantage in High Trust Sectors.