In a survey conducted by BT and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 75% of responding CEOs were confident about their digital strategies, but 86% felt challenged by their current infrastructures.
The biggest hurdles for companies' digital transformations in the survey were all too familiar. The top barriers for building digital infrastructures were inflexible technology (43%), lack of technology skills (40%) and security concerns (39%), according to the survey of 400 CEOs in 13 countries.
On the security front, 22% viewed cybersecurity as a "necessary evil." Some of the CEOs understood the importance of security -- particularly in consumer-facing industries -- with more than a quarter of them seeing it as a potential business differentiator, rising to nearly 50% in financial services.
The survey also found that almost 40% of respondents have digital transformations at the very top of their agendas, with close to a quarter of them personally leading their company's transformation efforts.
In general, CEOs had a high level of confidence that digital transformations would help them achieve their goals, which included improved operational efficiencies, better customer service, enabling future innovations and the aforementioned security.
"Our most recent research confirms that digital transformation has become a prevalent topic on the boardroom agenda," said Bas Burger, CE of Global Services at BT, in a prepared statement. "It also shows that CEOs all around the world identify the skills shortages, lack of insight into what customers and employees really want or need, and security as the main obstacles to delivering an optimal digital experience. It’s interesting that these are primarily human factors and it illustrates that digital transformation strategies should always be built around people."
Burger said that since BT is undertaking its own digital journey it was ideally positioned for helping its customers achieve their digital goals.
In the report, Burger defined digital transformation as a strategy that was rarely an end in itself, but rather the means for businesses to meet strategic objectives such as business growth and innovation, more agility, better customer experience and connected and collaborative employees.
Customer service -- namely digital customer experience -- was cited by the survey respondents as highly important, with 79% of the CEOs saying that they already offer a "good" or "excellent" digital customer experience today. Despite that confidence, the survey found that obstacles remained in the form of achieving insight into what customers really want and accruing the technology skills needed to deliver what they want.
CEOs viewed IoT, cloud computing, mobile computing and social media as the technology trends that would have the biggest impact on their organizations over the next two to three years.
While CEOs' confidence in digital transformations was high, they cited a need to work in tandem with their CIOs across areas such as security, infrastructure, technology skills and customer insight to achieve their digital objectives.
The survey was conducted with CEOs from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK and US.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation