April 1, 2014, 11:15 AM

Many B2B firms are ill prepared for the digital future

Most companies expect their business to change drastically, and few believe they’ve got the vision or technology they’ll need to adapt, according to a new Forrester survey. Only 21% of respondents said their CEOs have set “a clear vision for digital in our business.”

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Digital technology—that is, the Internet and all the electronic forms of communications it’s spawned—will disrupt many industries, and few companies believe they’re prepared, suggests a new report from Forrester Research Inc.

Only 21% of respondents to a Forrester survey said their CEOs have set “a clear vision for digital in our business.” Only 19% said they have the right technology to “execute our digital strategy,” while only 14% said they have the “necessary processes to execute our digital strategy.” Forrester surveyed 1,254 executives from companies with at least 250 employees between November and January.

The insurance industry faces the most potential disruption, with 86% of those firms expecting challenges to arise as more consumers and competitors embrace digital merchandising and marketing. For the retail and wholesale industries, which will have to master the fulfillment of online orders and other new capabilities, 81% of respondents are warily eyeing the continuing rise of digital. That compares with:

• 83% for education and social services;

• 83% for banking and financial services;

• 82% for government and nonprofits;

• 81% for media, entertainment and leisure (excluding travel);

• 77% of respondents from professional and business services;

• 77% for utilities;

• 76% for healthcare;

• 74% for transportation and travel;

• 72% for consumer packaged goods;

• 70% for pharmaceuticals and medical equipment;

• 65% for oil, gas, mining and chemicals;

• 63% for construction and engineering;

• 60% for industrial products.

The report serves less as a blueprint for what companies in those disparate industries should do to better deal with digital technologies as a rallying cry to look at new technologies in a smarter way. “You need to look at digital holistically,” says the report, from analysts Nigel Fenwick and Martin Gill. “You need to transform your business by applying digital thinking across everything you do—how to win, serve and retain customers; how to operate your internal processes; and how you source business services. In short, you must become a digital business.”

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