As the global head of PSD’s technology business I am fortunate in having the opportunity to meet with a broad range of technology leaders.

Digital Start With both the PSD Digital Transformation Breakfast and Barclays Digital Conference in the same week, I have been in a unique position to gain insight into the current state of play in Digital that I wanted to share.

There were a number of common themes between the two events including disruption, innovation, security, customer expectation and how a business transforms. The pace of change is unrelenting and the need for companies to look towards a digital strategy as a defensive or offensive tool is increasing.

Barclays are taking a clear lead in digital, publicly stating their aim to be 10X better than their competitors. They are investing in both British and American accelerators to identify disruptive technologies to support their growth.

One of the key themes I saw was just how important it is for businesses in all sectors to be identifying the opportunities to disrupt their business models in order to remain competitive and to respond to customer needs. There have been numerous examples of “Googled” companies who as a result of a lack of foresight now no longer exist or if they do they are significantly diminished. The majority of companies attending the PSD Digital Transformation Breakfast strongly advocated the need for businesses to look beyond their own competitor peer group. It is not simply about being easily satisfied by being as good as the competition, but seeking to set the bar higher and deliver excellence to customers.

During both the PSD and Barclays digital events pace was a recurring theme with both market leaders and recent start ups seeking to develop solutions at a startling rate using agile methodologies to be able to create, assess, and either continue investment or fail fast. To be able to do this, larger established companies need to develop an internal structure to support this such as Gartner's Bimodal / two speed model or acquire start-ups to ensure the required pace of change is met.

I have been fortunate to speak to a number of clients who provided us with a wealth of factual and anecdotal evidence of the pace of change, the most startling being TenCent, the Chinese internet services portal enabling upwards of 1 million users to set up bank accounts daily, at a cost of a couple of dollars. An amazing statistic when you look at the reflective numbers in Europe or the US. This is driven by turning an existing business model on its head and re-inventing customer engagement.

Cyber Security is another topic that drives significant debate across a number of sectors. With crime as a service on the rise, levels of sophistication improving and the threat of quantum computing becoming a reality, companies are looking to invest to protect their customers (as well as their own) data. There are numerous solutions available in the current market, however there was concern that the larger companies may not be able to match the rate at which prospective threats are developing the software to launch attacks. Finding solutions to these threats is one of the fastest growing sectors in the technology market place with hundreds of millions of pounds being invested to develop solutions to protect both data assets and customers.

I have seen wholehearted support of the need for digital transformation to be sponsored and driven from the main board of any business that seriously wants to transform. Almost all of our clients believe that for digital transformation to be enabled and to effect disruption, the leadership of an organisation need to mandate the change and take an active involvement in ensuring its success. We heard a number of examples of where functions of a business went about a transformation without the buy in of the board only to dramatically fail. Transformation is only as good as the aspiration, and the aspiration must come from the leadership team.

Customers' expectations are rapidly changing, aligned amongst other things, to the increasing number of smart devices globally. Consumers want more information before they commit to buying and when they do buy, then the process must be seamless and leave the consumer with a positive experience. In a lot of cases companies, either because of their lack of understanding or lack of technology are unable to meet these demands. Our clients felt that significant investment in both technology and resources is required to compete for and retain customers.

These themes will continue to dominate the changing nature of the global technology market. We will see more “Unicorns” (a pre-IPO tech startup with a $1 billion market value) grabbing the headlines over the coming months as well as witnessing globally established brands begin to fade through lack of digital progress. 

Digital is changing the playing field for every business and disruption is the future.