Family businesses get ready for digital disruption - PwC 21st CEO Survey

In the coming years, technology is going to move even quicker and looking forward we all need to be prepared. Surinder Arora, Arora CEO

UK heads of family businesses who participated in our recent CEO survey all agreed that technology is a great enabler to their business though often it can also feel overwhelming. Cyber topped the list of digital concerns for family business CEOs with 81% concerned by cyber threats. Two thirds of the family business CEOs surveyed were also concerned by the speed of technological change and just over half saw changes in core technologies of production or service provision as disruptive to their business over the next 5 years.

Percentage CEOs concerned by speed of technological change impacting growth

People and technology

I think, be it on a personal level or from a business perspective, technology can’t run this business. It allows the business to run. The people run the business. Jonathan Warburton, CEO Survey

For family businesses, people and technology go hand in hand. The CEOs in our survey all recognise the potential for technology to help them, “get there faster, cheaper and easier” but it was their people who make it a reality. Getting the workforce ready is a priority for family businesses with 55% of CEOs expressing concern over the digital skills gap in their workforce.

Percentage of CEOs investing more heavily in cyber security protection to build trust with customers

Ready for cyber?

The majority of family business CEOs agreed they are planning to invest more heavily in cyber security protection to help build trust with customers recognising, “it’s not an IT issue any more, it’s not something that happens deep in the IT function of a business, and it’s not necessarily a niche specialist subject.” Similarly 78% of the CEOs we surveyed are creating transparency around the use and storage of customer data as required by the recent General Data Protection Regulation recognising that, “it’s that type of regulation that allows consumers to trust you to do business with you in the first place”.

Percentage of CEOs who see changes in core technologies of production or service provision as disruptive over next 5 years

Ready for disruption?

Our recent research suggests that in ten years time up to a fifth of jobs in the UK could be automated. Whilst 77% of family business CEOs agree they make decisions on automation of tasks and jobs based on how best to deliver corporate purpose, the question remains whether they have really got to grips with the potential for disruption in their market. For example, only 30% of family business CEOs agree they are clear how robotics and artificial intelligence can improve customer experience. Many are looking to the next generation to fill the digital skills gap and less than half are concerned by the digital skills gap in their senior leadership team whilst 64% recognise the skills gap in their industry.

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Percentage of CEOs concerned about new market entrants threat to growth

Embracing the digital age

It doesn't matter what part of the world I'm in, the first thing I look at is my Trip Advisor comments on every hotel. It takes me five minutes every morning, but I can list through and say where can we learn from. If we made mistakes, how can we get them right next time? Surinder Arora, CEO Survey

It is important that family business CEOs don’t delay in planning for disruption and many are embracing emerging technologies. 40% of family business CEOs surveyed are planning for multiple and emerging visions of the future using a scenario-based approach and 55% concerned about the digital skills gap in their workforce. To make sure they have a people strategy fit for a digital age 40% of them are also rethinking their Human Resources function.

Disrupt yourself first

Disruption from technology is inevitable. Family business CEOs may need to proactively seek out help to, ‘look beyond the obvious and disrupt themselves before they are disrupted’. For one CEO embracing technology, the answer is simple, “the more technology we deploy, the more opportunity there is for the business to grow”. This is not the same for every family business, but it is important to remember that disruption provides as many opportunities as threats for agile organisations with a clear purpose. Understanding now how you may be disrupted by technology is key to your family business legacy.

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Suzi Woolfson
UK Private Business market leader, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7213 5030
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