NI firms rapidly accelerated digitisation during Covid-19 lockdown - survey
COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated the digitisation of Northern Ireland companies, with flexible working becoming embedded daily business, according to a survey carried out by KPMG.
The professional services giant quizzed company bosses in January and February and again in July and August for its annual global CEO report.
In Northern Ireland, it found 44 per cent were upbeat about the economy during the summer, despite the impact of Covid-19. However, KPMG said the response was 36 per cent down on the positivity expressed by chief executives in January.
But the survey revealed that the pandemic has significantly, and in many cases, permanently changed the way companies here operate.
In terms of working from home and sourcing talent, two thirds (64 per cent) of Northern Ireland’s chief executives said they will continue to build on their current use of digital collaboration and communication tools.
The majority (80 per cent) believe remote working has widened their available talent pool.
KPMG’s report also found that chief executives in the north invested in technology during the lockdown period, and they are betting on major dimensions of digital transformation to make their companies more operationally resilient, agile and customer-focused.
According to the survey, the biggest acceleration had been in the creation of a seamless digital customer experience, where 68 per cent said that progress has put them years ahead of where they would have expected to be right now.
More than half (56 per cent) of chief executives reported a sharp acceleration in the creation of new digital business models and revenue streams during the lockdown.
One-in-six bosses in the north said their health, or the health of a family member, had been affected by Covid-19, prompting them to change their strategic response to the pandemic.
Perhaps reflecting the scale of the feedback from the pre-pandemic period, chief executives flagged up climate change and the environment as the biggest risk to the growth of their business.
Johnny Hanna, who heads KPMG’s Belfast operation, said: “Northern Ireland’s CEOs have managed through a period of unprecedented change over the last few months, facing up to the challenges which have emerged as result of the pandemic by flexing their operations and refocusing their strategies.
“As a result, they are reporting the fast tracking of transformation in areas such as digitalisation, of more flexible working alongside a renewed sense of corporate responsibility.”