Gaining a Perspective on Digital IQ

Ten years ago, the smartphone was launched. Imagine if it had flopped.

Would we still be texting each other from phones with T9 keyboards? Would social media, the cloud or the app economy ever have taken off? Would we have the same access to information, media, or each other that we do today?

We can’t know for sure. But this example demonstrates how much tech — and the world — have changed between 2007 and today. Since the day Steve Jobs stood on stage and launched that revolutionary new device entire industries have been disrupted, and the way we live and work have transformed. In some ways, we’re still playing catch-up.

Back in 2007, we saw another significant launch: PwC’s Digital IQ survey. Ten years ago, PwC started asking business leaders how their organizations harness and profit from technology. Our new results, out today, reveal how far we’ve come — and where we still need to go.

We found that in many ways, companies are essentially paralyzed, or falling behind. This year, respondents say their confidence in their organizations’ digital abilities is at an all-time low. Investment in emerging tech has barely budged since 2007. While technology has become a C-level concern, many senior executives and the functional areas they lead are not yet fully engaged in digital transformation.

These findings speak volumes about the relationships between businesses and their digital investments. We see CEO expectations for technology innovation rising exponentially while C-suite teams struggle to translate aspiration into successful action. Digital IQ essentially tracks organizational preparedness in a fast-evolving environment. It’s not that companies care less about technology today than they did in 2007. Quite the opposite is true. What the survey demonstrates is how rapidly the pace of innovation has been accelerating, making it more and more difficult to execute a successful digital transformation

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs

What I see in this survey is an opportunity. It shows that we’re more aware than ever of the power of digital to transform business. But we feel challenged in our ability to take advantage of this innovation to accomplish strategic goals. Most of the digital transformation initiatives today still continue to fail to meet goals. We need to change the conversation.

Trying to keep up with the frenetic rate of innovation is a losing battle. Instead, we can succeed by finding better balance and expanding our view of digital. It’s about gaining a better understanding of our business goals and the experience we’re trying to create for customers and employees, and making technology work for us We can only do this by bringing diverse voices to the table — not just the IT director, but the creative and design teams, the business leads, and maybe even the frontline employee who will be using the technology every day. Together, the team can develop a shared perspective on digital priorities, putting them in a much better position to be confident they are unlocking value.

In particular, it’s critical to consider the human experience as part of the digital transformation process. After all, this focus on experience is what made some smartphones so successful. Strategies driven solely by taking advantage of the latest hot innovation on the market are destined to fail without knowing or achieving the business goal. Instead, take the time to get consensus on the experience you’re trying to create for employees and customers, and let that perspective drive your strategy and digital investments. Our survey shows that companies that take this approach report a higher strategic Digital IQ, and see stronger financial performance overall, and report reporting revenue growth and profit margin increases above 5% for the past three years and expected revenue growth of at least 5% for the next three years.

There are some indications that companies are already starting to break down these silos. Two-thirds of respondents this year said their CEOs have become champions for digital, double the figure a decade ago. The CIO has become more strategic, connected, and visible within the organization. Two-thirds of companies now say they have a single, multi-year roadmap that includes business and IT processes. Most senior executives this year — 70% — say they focus on ways new technologies will affect human experiences, including those of customers and employees.

As the smartphones in our pockets indicate, much has changed since 2007. But as the saying goes, much has also stayed the same. We still have some work to do to ensure we are taking advantage of the possibilities of digital, within the context of broader business goals and creating a stellar experience. And despite the daunting road ahead, I believe we can reach these goals by leveraging the power of perspective across business, experience design, and technology.

Visit pwc.com/digitaliq for more information on the results, and follow me on Twitter @tomp1975.