Many organisations are at serious risk of complacency, lacking the leadership required to grapple with the complexities of digital – especially in regard to their physical assets and infrastructure.

Online surveys and in-depth interviews conducted by Aurecon with more than 100 business leaders and specialist futurists across the world revealed that nine out of 10 organisations have faced some sort of challenge in embracing digital; 68% believe the definition of digital is only “somewhat” shared across their organisation; and that only 26% of respondents have a chief digital executive leading their digital strategy, with 28% of respondents reporting that responsibility sits with their IT department.

The first wave of data from Aurecon’s Our Digital Futures research, named The Digital Landscape, reveals the major barriers, challenges and opportunities that digital can create; particularly relevant as the digital revolution sweeps across the infrastructure sector.

Aurecon chief digital officer Dr Andrew Maher says the results indicate the significant gaps of understanding that exist in many organisations, and reinforced the need for C-suite leaders to own and drive digital strategies for optimal results.

“Within organisations, the definition of ‘digital’ is quite narrow and not necessarily a collective understanding for all staff. Responsibility for ‘digital’ is also siloed with many organisations expressing a lack of ownership, and it’s troubling that the IT department is considered responsible for digital strategy by 28% of respondents’,” Dr Maher says.

“Digital is about so much more than systems and technology. It transforms the physical, spanning our cities, workplaces, homes, environment, people and assets. It’s imperative that organisations have strong leadership in place to really drive this, and organisations with a chief digital executive have much higher opportunities to connect strategy, performance, revenue and ROI.

“Digital can help us solve problems and overcome challenges, be more efficient, work smarter and generate new revenue. For example, being able to better manage the life cycle of an asset using sensors and data analytics can have a significant impact on an organisation’s balance sheet, while leading to real gains in productivity.

“However, achieving these outcomes now and into the future heavily depends on how well organisations can effectively navigate this complex digital world.”

Our Digital Futures – The Digital Landscape also found that professionals expect digital to have less impact on generating new revenue streams than defending existing revenue.

“Many organisations are focused on a ‘now’ mindset with data analytics and efficiency the current priorities. But this means they are losing out on potential dividends and unlocking value from new business opportunities,” Dr Maher says.

“No matter where an organisation is on the curve, there are actions that leadership can take to move forward. Assessing their current state and priorities; shifting ownership of digital to the C-suite; and implementing a strategy that delivers quick wins in the short-term, as well as long-term transformational change, are steps to success.”