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Lack of Digital Competencies Key Barrier to Success for Global Businesses: Economist Intelligent Unit Survey

The central importance that companies place on improved digital competencies comes despite the fact that some firms are yet to achieve meaningful results

Digital competencies have become vital to achieving business goals, according to new research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). In Benchmarking competencies for digital performance, commissioned by Riverbed, 87% of Asia Pacific respondents see digital competencies as being either very or extremely important in achieving, among other things, revenue growth, service quality, mission delivery, profit growth/cost reduction, user experience and customer satisfaction.

The study is based on a survey of more than 500 senior business and government leaders across North America, EMEA and APAC, focused on assessing nine behaviours, skills and abilities that help organisations improve their digital performance and, ultimately, achieve their objectives. Accompanying the study is a digital competency assessment tool, which enables users to benchmark their organisation’s competencies and performance against all survey respondents.

The survey uncovers a shared awareness among businesses that digital transformation is necessary to achieve their goals and remain competitive. Yet, 61% of APAC organisations say they are struggling to achieve these important goals because they lack digital competencies, which is higher than organisations in North America (54%) and EMEA (56%). In particular, 67% of APAC respondents say that their digital-competency gaps have negatively affected user experience, which explains why almost half of respondents say they need to significantly improve digital experience management.

The central importance that companies place on improved digital competency comes despite the fact that some firms are yet to achieve meaningful results. Over 41% of APAC organisations surveyed report only neutral or no measurable benefits from their digital strategies.

In terms of overcoming this capability gap, the IT function plays a pivotal role. Businesses are aware that IT must be agile, as 57% cite IT infrastructure modernisation and transformation as their top digital competency for achieving their goals. In addition, enabling greater communication and collaboration between IT and the rest of the organisation (where digital competencies may be scarce) can significantly improve digital performance and user experience.

Globally, high performers believe a continual focus is also vital, with fully 57% of them committed to improving all digital competencies, compared with 44% of all APAC respondents. Unlike other respondents, high performers also use a wider approach to developing digital competencies, including establishing a cross-functional digital competency centre of excellence and/or appointing a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

Robert Powell, Editorial Director of EIU Thought Leadership (Americas), says:“The study shows a clear consensus among respondents that improving digital competency is vital for boosting organisational performance, even if some are not yet witnessing the results. Nevertheless, among the highest performing, the lessons are clear—do not hesitate, encourage internal collaboration, and, even if you feel ahead of your competition, never stop looking over your shoulder.”

Bjorn Engelhardt, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific & Japan at Riverbed Technology says: “The EIU research clearly highlights that the lack of digital competencies is a stumbling block towards digital performance and success for businesses across the globe. While Indian organizations are relentlessly shifting their focus to grow and compete digitally, similar to their global counterparts, they too are struggling to deliver the level of digital performance that users have come to expect. There is an urgent need for investment in reskilling and upskilling, that will not only enhance employee productivity and bottom lines, but also help build better digital experiences for customers.”

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