Kris Flanagan: Adapting to digital changes

Kris Flanagan of recruiter Robert Half UK says Scottish firms need a 'core focus' on digital transformation. Picture: John Devlin
Kris Flanagan of recruiter Robert Half UK says Scottish firms need a 'core focus' on digital transformation. Picture: John Devlin
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Businesses in Scotland recognise the importance of upgrading systems to meet customer demands for a more “anytime, anywhere” response.

There is strong investment in digital solutions including e-commerce systems and updates, digital offerings and service solutions.

Digital transformation is taking place at all levels across Scotland

Kris Flanagan

In September, it was announced that 27 local Scottish authorities have joined forces to appoint a chief digital officer and chief technology officer who will lead the newly created local government digital office, which will be responsible for outlining the long-term digital direction for local government in Scotland.

These appointments in government show that digital transformation is taking place at all levels across Scotland. While this is nothing new in itself, as after all businesses have been going digital for many years now, the digital revolution presents a number of challenges for Scottish businesses.

The rate of technological change is moving too fast for many SMEs to be able to respond. According to Scottish government statistics, SMEs account for 99.4 per cent of all private-sector enterprises, responsible for 55.6 per cent of private-sector employment and 39.4 per cent of private-sector turnover in Scotland.

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In order for many companies to respond to these plans, there is a need to ensure internal functions, most notably their finance solutions, are up to date.

The top three hurdles identified by Scottish CFOs to reaching their goals in 2017 include a reluctancy to change (33 per cent), a lack of investment in the finance function (25 per cent), and requiring systems updates or entirely new systems (18 per cent), for example moving their systems to a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.

Implementing these new digital solutions within the finance function will also have a positive impact on the overall productivity of the function. With the growing need to improve efficiencies, Scottish CFOs plan to streamline processes and hire interim managers or additional temporary resources to support the back-filling of key roles.

Hiring an interim means choosing someone with a niche set of skills required for the specific project. Often, bringing in an external expert can help improve operational systems and processes, apply lessons learned from other projects and industry sectors or identify problems that had been missed.

Businesses in Scotland are in the midst of digital transformation but there is certainly a long way to go before they are able to fully capitalise on the opportunities presented, whether these be competitive advantages, growth in market share or increased profit margins. It is no longer acceptable for digital to be seen on the outside of business planning. It should be the core focus around which strategy is formed in order to remain competitive.

• Kris Flanagan is associate director for Scotland at recruiter Robert Half UK

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