Telstra, a leading Australian telecommunications and technology company, has today published a report in partnership with Vanson Bourne, that reveals the impact of COVID-19 on European businesses, and how some are using digital transformation to pivot business models to adapt to a post-COVID world.
The research, based on interviews with 500 senior IT and business decision makers in private sector organisations across Europe, explores how organisations are pursuing their digital transformation and innovation initiatives, the need for agility and the challenges of cybersecurity in the wake of COVID-19.
Security – an ever-evolving and challenging landscape
Cybersecurity is more important now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic presented cybercriminals with increased opportunities to breach the defences of organisations, making improvements increasingly important for European companies and their workforces. The research revealed that over half (65%) of respondents saw a dramatic rise in cyberattacks on their organisation during the pandemic.
In addition to hacking efforts, businesses reported increased pressure from phishing (44%), fake contact tracing apps and calls (43%) and ransomware (43%), with the greatest increase in incidents in the energy, oil, gas and utilities sector (80%).
Fifty-six percent cited improving cybersecurity as among the top priorities within their recovery strategy, ahead of increasing the pace of digital transformation projects (51%) and increasing investment in emerging technologies (50%), all of which can sharpen organisations’ competitive edge as they emerge from the pandemic.
Digital transformation in a COVID world
Showing great resilience to the difficult circumstances wrought by the pandemic, the businesses surveyed reported strong progression of their digital transformation and innovation plans. Sixty-five percent of respondents say most or all of their organisation’s digital transformation and innovation projects are currently active, with only 28% claiming to have fully executed their digital transformation.
However, many decision makers still believe more could be done, with 83% agreeing their organisation needs to increase the pace of its digital transformation, which is unanimous across all the regions and verticals surveyed. European businesses have made vigorous investments in digital transformation despite the financial downturn, with respondents spending over $2.28 million (USD) on projects since the start of 2020. This is an average increase of 2.71% as a result of the pandemic.
Of those surveyed, the financial services industry reported 3.5 times more digital investment than any other sector with a spend of $6.55 million (USD). Artificial intelligence (AI) is cited as the key technology being prioritised (41%), a likely result of businesses attempting to better understand their customers. Other technologies being prioritised include 5G (35%), Internet of Things (34%) and edge computing (30%), all of which are geared towards enhancing network performance, connectivity and security. Interestingly, respondents from the UK and Ireland were the most likely to report that their organisation is prioritising investment in AI (53%), the Internet of Things (48%) and 5G (37%).
Meanwhile, most businesses recognised the need to include their supply chain in digital transformation projects, with 89% of respondents agreeing that involvement could lead to improved success levels for their organisation. Around a quarter (24%) reported their organisation has fully adapted to the changes arising from the pandemic, with a similar proportion (26%) saying the same for their supply chain. Encouragingly, 79% believe that the agility of their organisation, including its supply chain, has increased as a result of the pandemic.
Agility – a business necessity
The research showed that business agility became vital during the pandemic, with success hinging on how quickly organisations could react and adapt to a disparate workforce and customer base. Those who adapted quickly were the winners and many cited cloud as the key technology that enabled their success.
Surprisingly only 23% of respondents reported their organisation has a cloud-first strategy, with almost half (49%) expressing a need to migrate more applications to the cloud. Ultimately, the research showed that whether organisations implemented a cloud-only or hybrid model, they cannot afford to forego the agility benefits that cloud can deliver for both network and business performance.
Flexible working has become a business necessity, with 40% saying flexible working is the top enabler for business agility. While the majority indicated uptake of networking tools that enable flexible working, 71% indicated that they see room for improvement with their organisation’s network – some of the key areas that could improve were agility to scale bandwidth up and down to meet demand (36%), automation and use of software defined network technology (35%), and optimization of application performance (30%).
Matt Williams, head of Telstra, EMEA, said: “From our research, it’s heartening to note that organisations are moving in the right direction with their digital transformation strategies, with the majority identifying themselves as more agile than they were before. However, agility is not the only factor in a business’ ability to survive through the pandemic. Digital supply chains and protecting yourself from cyberattacks are mission critical. When these three elements are fully addressed – with cybersecurity underpinning the agenda – organisations will be able to emerge into the post-pandemic world with confidence.”