Here’s what the C-suite really think about emerging technologies

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Key data for tech founders selling to corporates.

Large enterprises and corporates are core customers for many tech startups. Understanding how leaders within those organisations perceive emerging technologies can be a vital element in winning their business

GlobalData, the business information provider, surveyed 1,770 C-suite and senior executives to discover their attitudes towards emerging technologies. Respondents came from regions including UK, Europe, US, Africa and Asia.

Knowing what big business thinks about the tech underpinning many startups’ services should enable a more informed sales process and faster customer acquisition.

Emerging technologies

Business leaders from 23 industries were surveyed. More than half were C-suite level or above. They were asked for their attitudes about the following emerging technologies:

  • 5G
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Automation technologies
  • Blockchain
  • Cloud computing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Internet of Things

The role of emerging tech in Covid-19 recovery

Emerging technologies were not universally seen as the core solution to immediate business challenges. Only 35% of leaders thought that augmented reality (AR) or blockchain would be significant in helping their business recover the Covid-19 downturn. Cybersecurity, cloud computing and automation technologies were seen as the most significant tech in aiding recovery.

Technology understanding and sentiment

The survey found that if business leaders understand a technology, they are more likely to have a positive attitude towards it. This was particularly true for the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, cloud computing and cybersecurity.

Blockchain and AR are the least understood technologies and also had the lowest sentiment scores, with GlobalData analysts suggesting that vendors of this tech should focus on increasing awareness of use cases.

AR has strong use cases in retail, apparel and healthcare but, surprisingly, executives in these sectors reported low familiarity with this technology.

Understanding of cybersecurity is high in financial services including insurance and banking but lower in some business sectors, such as retail, despite the fact that they process large amounts of personal data.

The proportion of respondents who said they fully understood a specific technology generally ranged from 50% to 70%, showing that startup founders should not assume all the executives they are pitching to have good knowledge of emerging tech. For example, less than half of telecom executives surveyed said they fully understood 5G. This was the lowest level of 5G understanding across the 23 sectors.

Are industry leaders really ready for digital disruption?

More than 80% of those surveyed said their company was prepared for digital disruption with mining, technology, automotive and telecoms reporting the highest level of readiness. GlobalData analysts highlighted the mismatch between relatively low levels of understanding of technologies and high levels of perceived readiness for digitally driven change, stating that “companies often overestimate their preparedness for disruption”.

Investment in new tech varies widely by region

Business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region plan the greatest increase in investment in new technology and digital change, with executives in Western Europe reporting the lowest levels of increased spending. This may prompt UK startups to increase their focus on overseas markets.

The proportion of respondents reporting increased spending on new technology:

  • Asia-Pacific: 60%
  • South & Central America: 59%
  • North America: 57%
  • Middle East and Africa: 49%
  • Eastern Europe: 48%
  • Western Europe: 43%

Sector and industry specific findings

Automation is perceived as the most disruptive technology and both automation and 5G are seen as key to supporting business development.

Labour-intensive industries that rely on complex supply chains recognize the disruptive impact of automation and blockchain.

Insurance is looking at AI and AR, technologies that can help reduce costs and bring more efficiency to the claims process.

Business leaders expect the impact of 5G to become evident in the next 12 months as the technology continues to roll out across the world. This is also among the areas where most expect to increase investment in the next year.

GlobalData conclusions and recommendations

COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on businesses. 44% of respondents expect revenues will be impacted negatively. As a result, decision makers might be reluctant to invest in new technology. However, embracing disruptive technology is likely to be part of business plans to overcome the crisis.

The best understood technologies are most likely to be deployed. It is often, but not always, the case that a technology is better known in the sectors where it can have an impact. However AR, which has use cases in retail, apparel, and healthcare, is not fully understood in those sectors.

While cybersecurity is important to all sectors, other emerging technologies are not. Business leaders are looking to focus on technologies that make processes more efficient, cut costs, and assist with business development. Technology vendors must therefore focus on addressing the specific needs of their clients.

The survey reveals that most executives believe their companies are well prepared for digital disruption. Other findings suggest this confidence may not be well founded in all cases. The larger the gap between perceived and actual capabilities, the greater the risk, particularly given the current economic climate. Any misperception of digital readiness is a challenge to tech startups’ sales growth and may need to be overcome as prospects are converted to clients.

This article is a summary of the full GlobalData report: Emerging Technology Trends Survey 2020, published October 2020.

The information contained in this article was correct at the time of publishing. We recommend that you carry out your own independent research before you make any decisions that will impact your business.


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