At a glance
- Obstacles to technology adoption in business include talent shortages, financial costs and low return on investment, among others.
- Larger companies are more likely to have digital transformation strategies in place than smaller companies.
- Cloud computing, videoconferencing and group collaboration tools are among the most-used technologies.
In CPA Australia’s latest survey of technology usage by businesses, nearly one-third of respondents identified talent shortage as a key barrier to technology adoption.
The survey of 820 accounting and finance professionals working across different industries in Australia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam revealed the major drivers and barriers to technology adoption, the strategies being undertaken to accelerate the use of digital technology and the different technologies used.
Drivers and challenges
When asked what their main drivers of technology uptake are, 63 per cent of respondents nominate enhancing operational processes as a priority. Other popular choices include cost savings (31 per cent), COVID-19 (28 per cent) and improving the customer experience (27 per cent).
However, technology adoption is not without its challenges.
Many respondents report that technology uptake in their business is hamstrung by financial costs and low return on investment (35 per cent), shortage of technology talent (32 per cent), complex legacy systems (30 per cent), and concerns with cybersecurity (26 per cent) and data privacy (24 per cent).
Technology initiatives by businesses
Organisations undertook various initiatives to overcome these challenges, with successful businesses more focused on talent attraction and development.
For instance, a significantly greater proportion of respondents from high-growth businesses report that their employer focused on increasing the number of employees with data analytics and technology skills and on upskilling the technology capabilities of staff in the past 12 months.
Further, respondents from businesses expecting to grow strongly in 2022-2023 are more inclined to pick “increase technology training for employees” as a key action they expect their employer to undertake in the next 12 months.
As the global competition for technology talent soars, it would be sensible for companies to allocate adequate time and resources to upskill or reskill employees and use innovative ways to attract, nurture and retain talent.
For policymakers, support programs to upskill or reskill the workforce should be explored to encourage more businesses – especially smaller ones – to enhance the technology and data capabilities of their employees.
Digital transformation strategy
Overall, 77 per cent of those surveyed say their business has a digital transformation strategy, with 45 per cent stating that digital transformation is a very important part of their organisational strategy.
Variations in the percentages with a digital transformation strategy have been observed between businesses of different levels of performance and size. Eighty-four per cent of respondents from high-growth businesses say their employer has a digital transformation strategy, compared with about two-thirds of respondents from businesses that shrank.
Ninety-three per cent of respondents from companies with 500 or more employees say their business or employer has a strategy, compared to 59 per cent from companies with fewer than 100 employees (59 per cent).
Considerable asymmetries in financial and materials resources, data assets and access to technical expertise between smaller and larger businesses may explain why smaller enterprises are less likely to have a digital transformation strategy than their larger-sized counterparts.
To ensure that smaller businesses reap the economic and social benefits of the shift to a digital economy, governments should focus on providing incentives for businesses to undergo digital transformation.
CPA Australia Resource
Technology use in business
Among the most common technologies used by their employers in the past 12 months, the survey respondents name videoconferencing and group collaboration tools and cloud computing. Conversely, blockchain technology and robotic process automation (RPA) were the technologies least likely to be used.
While videoconferencing and group collaboration tools and cloud computing have become a mainstay in the workplace, the greatest opportunity for better business performance is by adopting value-adding technologies and operational efficiency software.
The benefit for organisations to harness these technologies and software is supported by the survey results, which indicate a positive association between business performance and the use of data-driven technologies.
Respondents from high-growth businesses report a noticeably higher degree of usage of RPA, customer relationship management software, business intelligence software, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and data analytics and visualisation software.
The survey results indicate that a stronger focus on technology and digitalisation is associated with better business performance.
Therefore, it would be prudent for organisations to stay abreast of technology innovations and determine how best to leverage them in business strategies and operations.
Analysed by size, respondents from companies with 500 or more employees report a higher percentage of technology usage than respondents from companies with fewer than 100 employees.
As noted above, with a digital transformation strategy gap between companies of different sizes, smaller companies may lack the resources, data and expertise to invest in and use technologies.
For policymakers seeking to support business recovery and growth, improving the digital and technology capabilities of businesses – especially those that are small or medium-sized – is essential.
What do the survey findings mean for business?
The key lessons for business from the survey results are:
- Consider designing and implementing a digital transformation strategy
- Consider establishing a data governance framework that ensures data quality, accessibility, security, privacy and compliance obligations
- Consider using technology tools that turn data into valuable and actionable insights, such as business intelligence software and data analytics and visualisation software
- Enhance in-house data and technology capabilities through training programs, external support and securing top talent
- Ensure the technology and software you use have strong cybersecurity and data protection features.