Technology companies are not tops in digital sustainability

Multi-tenant office buildings. Image: Pixabay
Technology is a runner-up to financials when it comes to digital sustainability. (Pixabay)

The technology industry is not the most “digitally sustainable” of the industries included in a new survey.

The study by Korn Ferry defines digital sustainability as a business’s ability to adapt effectively and continuously keep up with the constant state of flux in the digital economy.

The financial services industry ranked highest in Korn Ferry’s Digital Sustainability Index among the five industries looked at.

“Financial companies have, for some time, had the compelling commercial drive to shift culture, processes and practices–seeking to protect customer data and market share while meeting new customer and talent demands,” said Michael Franzino, president, Korn Ferry global financial services practice. “Increasing global investment in fintech and intense competition from fintech hybrids have also triggered definitive action.”

The technology industry came in at No. 2.

“The technology sector is not only made up of the high-growth disruptors of the world, but also decades-old legacy tech giants in need of structural, cultural and work process reform,” said Werner Penk, president of Korn Ferry’s global technology practice. “The more traditional firms–once pioneers of the industry–now need to overhaul their strategies and work processes to ensure future survival.”

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Rounding out the industry rankings were life sciences and healthcare (No. 3) and industrials (No.4), while consumer companies, including retail, came in last, at No. 5.

Korn Ferry said it analyzed 362 companies in 14 countries and across five industries. The ranking is based on five leadership and organizational dimensions of what it defines as digital sustainability: agility, connectivity, discipline and focus, openness and transparency, and empowerment and alignment.

The ranking shows a correlation to profitability. High performers in digital sustainability see a 5.6 percentage point increase in profit margin (EBITDA) versus the low performers.

Based on country rankings, the US came in first. However, “U.S. organizations must focus on improving the people aspect of their business operations if they are to continue as digital sustainability leaders and gain the long-term financial advantages associated with it,” said Karin Lucas, president, North America Korn Ferry Hay Group.

The United Kingdom ranked second out of the 14 analyzed nations for being digitally sustainable.

“The traditional dominance of the U.K. as a digital economy leader could be under threat from rising global players, unless steps are taken to invest strategically, build a skilled, specialized workforce, and develop enviable networks, at home and abroad,” said Matt Crosby, a Korn Ferry senior client partner based in London. “The government needs to consider increasing connections beyond its borders now more than ever to drive partnerships, strengthen trade and share ideas and innovation.”

The three countries that were at the bottom of the list on the Korn Ferry digital sustainability survey were Mexico (No. 12), Brazil (No. 13) and Turkey (No. 14).

“Clearly there are vast discrepancies in organizations’ capacity to continuously adapt to the digital economy across industries and regions,” said Melissa Swift, Korn Ferry Hay Group global digital solutions leader. “But even for those companies that rank highly in the study, continuous improvement in this area is critical not only for success, but for survival.”

Being “digitally mature today is not enough; the new economy demands companies that are built to change,” Swift said. “Leaders must recognize that with new products, services and brands entering the market at lightning speed, transformation is needed not just once, but over again.”

“Consumer companies are at a crossroads. Many have one foot in the digital world and one foot in the traditional storefront,” said Craig Rowley, Korn Ferry senior partner, consumer and retail.

Consumer companies “have adapted to e-commerce and have reduced time to delivery, but many are still playing catch up rather than anticipating what customers will want next,” Rowley said. “Leaders need to look way beyond the now and move as quickly as the industry is evolving.”