10 February 2017 | By Felicity Burch Insight

It's time to talk about technology

Insight: Felicity Burch, CBI head of digital and innovation

Technology is a part of our daily lives, and it’s also part of the day-to-day in business. Almost all businesses now have digital elements but, as the role of technology broadens, are businesses ready for the challenge? 

The CBI’s Innovation Survey 2016, conducted in partnership with Deloitte, asked companies what technologies they thought were making an impact on their companies now.

Mission-critical technology now:

  1. Mobile technology: 89%
  2. Online platforms: 85%
  3. Social media: 85%

The results showed that a number of well known technologies are already near-ubiquitous among companies of all sizes and sectors. Mobile is top of the tree with 80 per cent citing it in their answers, closely followed by online platforms at 85 per cent, and social media and cloud computing at 85 per cent. These core technologies show little variation in use by sector: instead of one sector called digital, all sectors are heading that way.

Top techs for the next five years:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI): 37%
  2. Internet of things (IoT): 30%
  3. Crowdsourcing: 27%

The next five years look exciting as businesses move boldly forward. Technologies that are currently confined to one or two sectors look likely to start hitting the mainstream. This fits with a broader trend we’re seeing as companies increasingly seek to redefine themselves as technology or innovation businesses.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence tops the list of technologies that businesses expect to have an impact in the next five years. Tech companies are already in on the game, but finance, insurance and professional services are the next wave, with more than two-fifths of companies expecting AI will play a role in the development of each their industries.

And, in an increasingly digital future, it’s not just the traditional early technology adopters that are looking at the role that machine intelligence might play. Of the construction firms that responded to the survey, 38 per cent believe AI will have an impact in the next five years.

Internet of Things

Second on businesses’ list, is the Internet of Things (IoT) which has the potential to revolutionise supply chains, reduce waste and create increasingly responsive businesses in the long term. Nearly a third of companies expect this to be something their sector has to work with over the next five years. Currently the technology, transportation and manufacturing sectors are at the forefront, but looking further out, very few companies think their sector will be unaffected by the IoT.


Crowdsourcing completes the list of the top three techs for the next five years, and again, it’s cross-sectoral. Previously the preserve of finance and tech sectors, firms across the piece are now considering ways to use technology to gather information from their customers, suppliers and other sources.

Are businesses ready?

While businesses can see the impact new technologies will have, there are still steps to take before they’re geared up to make the most of the opportunities that exist. In particular, CBI’s report Embracing Digital in every Sector found that there is an emerging digital divide between firms that do and do not have a long-term digital strategy.

As many as 45 per cent of businesses do not yet have a digital strategy that looks three to five years ahead. Around 30 per cent are planning for the next year or two, but 7 per cent of businesses have no sense of their digital plans at all – and this figure rises to 25 per cent among small businesses.

So what should businesses at the start of their digital journey do? Embracing Digital in every Sector suggests three things to focus on:

  • Consider giving technology a strategic face, in the form of chief digital or technology officer.
  • Make sure you are getting diverse advice at board level, and find new ways to inject digital skills at the strategic level.
  • Collaborate with other businesses.

Supporting business digitisation is something the CBI will be working on in the year ahead, engaging with members as they adopt and develop new technologies.

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