Number of UK companies investing heavily in digital doubles – PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey

Published at 00:01 AM on 01 March 2017

  •  Three quarters of UK executives believe their CEO is a digital champion
  • One in ten UK companies now employs a Chief Digital Officer

  • UK companies prioritising investment in Internet of Things & artificial intelligence (AI)

The number of UK companies investing more than 15% of annual revenues in digital technology has more than doubled in the last year from 10% to 24%, significantly higher than their global counterparts.

PwC’s 2017 Digital IQ Survey paints a more positive picture of the levels of digital understanding and adoption amongst UK organisations as compared to the global average. The survey, now in its tenth year, looks at how well companies understand the value of technology to drive business, based on the responses of 2,218 senior business and IT executives from 53 countries, including 203 from the UK.

Jonathan Tate, UK and EMEA technology consulting leader at PwC commented:

“Ten years ago, UK organisations’ Digital IQ was very different to the picture we see today. There was little understanding of where digital responsibilities lay, often leaving initiatives siloed within the IT department.

“Even despite recent economic uncertainty, we’re now seeing this beginning to change, with the results of our 2017 Digital IQ Survey indicating that UK organisations are embracing digital and increasing investment.

“In an ever-changing landscape of new and emerging technologies there will always be new challenges, but it’s important to focus on unlocking the value these new opportunities can bring.”

Defining digital leadership and strategy

More than four-in-five UK executives (UK 86%; global 72%) believe that clarity of roles and responsibilities around digital ownership is no longer an obstacle to delivering against their digital technology objectives.

UK executives are much more confident than the rest of world that their senior business leaders understand digital technology, with 83% of respondents agreeing their CEO’s digital IQ was high (above 70%), compared to the global average (62%) and a mere 57% in the US. Moreover, 74% of UK executives believe their CEO is a champion for digital, above the global average of 68% (up from 33% globally ten years ago).

One-in-ten UK companies now employ a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) (UK 11%; global average 7%), but of those who don’t yet have one in place 16% are planning to add one (global: 5%). A further 20% of those without a CDO say this is because digital is now integral to the way their company does business, and it is part of every executive’s job description.

Whilst three quarters of UK businesses (73%) now understand that digital means more than just something IT looks after, there remains a quarter (27%) that still think digital is synonymous with IT, suggesting they aren’t investigating the full benefits of digital (global: 29%). Amongst the UK public sector this thinking was more prevalent (45%).

Digital champion

Approaches to emerging technology

Spending on emerging technologies is healthy in UK companies, with 43% spending more than a fifth of their technology budget on them, compared to 33% globally. Out of the PwC Essential Eight emerging technologies, current UK investments are prioritised on Internet of Things (IoT) (UK 84% investing vs. 73% globally) and artificial intelligence (AI) (UK 66%; global 54%). Over half of UK respondents (52%) consider IoT to be the most important for cutting costs, as well as the most disruptive to business models (35%).

Half of UK executives (UK 49%; global 40%) also say that their approach to emerging technology is business-driven, rather than shaped by technology or vendors – a sign they have clearer plans in place about using emerging technology to drive business value.


Digital capabilities

UK companies boast higher skill levels in areas such as cyber security, where 78% agree they have the right skills they need compared to 64% globally, digital strategy and planning (UK 72%; global 53%), and evaluating emerging technology (UK 70%; global 53%).

UK firms are therefore less likely to cite a lack of properly skilled teams as an existing barrier to achieving results in digital initiatives (UK 19%; global 24%), but over a third (37%) think this will be an emerging barrier to tackle in future (37%; global 39%).

Marco Amitrano, head of consulting at PwC, commented:

“UK organisations have come a long way over the past decade and it’s positive to see them now leading on many aspects of digital transformation. It's important that we now build on this rapidly.

"We hope that today's Digital Strategy expected from the Government provides the catalyst that UK organisations need to continue progress, given the potential that digital advances such as artificial intelligence have to support future economic growth and business success.

"Our Digital IQ report outlines the importance of digital as a priority in any business strategy, requiring the right focus and leadership to extract the most value from investments.”


Notes for editors.

  • To see the full UK results, please visit For the global results of the survey, go to
  • Of the UK’s 203 respondents surveyed in late 2016, this included 40 from the Public Sector, 30 from Industrial Manufacturing, 30 from Financial Services, 30 from Retail & Consumer, and the remainder from a variety of other industries

For more information please contact Felicity Main: [email protected] / +44 (0)7841 467 421


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