Survey says digital innovation is the way to navigate macro uncertainty

  • About ServiceNow
  • Trends and Research
  • AI and Automation
  • 2023
  • Sally Benford
14 March 2023

Digital innovation: three workers looking at a computer monitor.

The economy’s mixed messages—slow growth and high inflation, combined with resilient employment and consumer demand—are spurring business leaders to focus on ways to boost productivity, drive growth, retain customers, and remain competitive.

A 2023 survey of 1,000 C-suite executives by ServiceNow and ThoughtLab found digital activities continue to be a key element of their strategic plans. This is especially true for companies that have prioritised digital innovation in the past. More than 70% of respondents described their organisation’s current stage of digital transformation as “maturing” or “advanced.”

“Perhaps not surprisingly, companies that have seen the benefits of digital transformation aren’t backing off these investments,” says Chris Bedi, ServiceNow chief digital information officer and guest editor of the Winter 2023 issue of Workflow Quarterly. “Instead, they are focused on increasing the efficiency and productivity of their operations to help them thrive in tough times.”

Profit, revenue, and employee engagement

According to the survey, more than 40% of respondents are concerned about:

  • Customer loyalty and retention
  • Profitability 
  • Revenue growth

In addition to working to improve productivity and efficiency, business leaders plan to elevate employee and customer experiences. One way executives intend to boost customer retention is by digitising the customer experience.

Leaders also acknowledge that taking advantage of the flexibility of remote work made possible by digital technologies boosts employee morale. Technology will continue to support a remote workforce, as 31% of organisations aim to reduce office space costs over the next year.

Implementing digital solutions such as workflow automation, robotic process automation (RPA), and virtual collaboration tools can increase employee productivity. Embracing advancements in technology can also improve other areas of importance, such as cost management, training, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG).

Creating action plans

It's no surprise that 38% of chief operating officers believe the macro environment negatively impacts profit margins and financial performance. Executives across industries see digital innovation as the way to navigate the current economic climate.

Many leaders intend to focus on three pieces of the puzzle:

  1. Find new opportunities, including product development and cost-effective business acquisitions
  2. Reorganise operations to streamline processes and prioritise partnerships
  3. Minimise effects by boosting staff morale and reducing expenses

One-third of survey respondents plan to harness technologies to drive cost efficiencies and return on investment while improving underperforming business areas.

Top strategic priorities

Nearly 40% of respondents say accelerating digital transformation is their top strategic priority. Maximising profit, achieving ESG goals, and increasing revenue also ranked high.

Top 10 strategic priorities over next two years: Accelerate digital transformation, maximise profit, achieve ESG goals, increase revenue, reduce costs, increase customer trust & loyalty, drive innovation, improve supply chain management, increase employee morale & productivity, build talent & skills.

About seven out of 10 organisations will embrace cloud and internet of things (IoT) technologies this year. Companies also aim to improve cybersecurity to reduce ever-increasing risks to processes, employees, and customers.

Business leaders have already invested in advanced data management and AI technologies and are looking at emerging technologies, such as blockchain and digital twins.

Silver lining in the macro storm clouds

Leaders know that investing in digital solutions is critical to staying competitive. As uncertainty continues, they’ll need to balance the demands of employees and customers with efficiency and innovation to propel growth and increase profits.

Although current pain points—high energy costs and rising interest rates, along with market volatility—may increase in the near future, forward-thinking companies are developing strategies to navigate these continuing challenges.

Not all are taking a negative view. In fact, 53% of digital leaders see opportunities in the current macro climate to advance their competitive position. And 65% of executives believe the current environment will have a positive effect on their organisation over the next two years.

Gain more insights in the Workflow Quarterly Winter 2023 issue.

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