Are Irish businesses still in the dark about digital?

Prior to Covid-19 Irish IT decision-makers were conservative about plans for digital transformation, especially areas like e-commerce and blockchain. Six months after lockdown began, has that view changed?

A survey of 103 IT decision-makers in Ireland by data centre giant Equinix, showed that towards the end of last year, just 37pc of enterprises were planning to increase investment in their e-commerce capabilities over the following 12-month period.

Equinix’s Tech Trends Survey was conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses in Ireland and across the world to move their operations online.

“Digital transformation has moved from a buzzword to a pressing need”

It would be interesting to see how this sentiment may have changed after six months of lockdown since Covid-19 struck.

Online shopping works: Are you convinced yet?

The results showed that prior to the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of medium to large-sized enterprises did not view investment in e-commerce capabilities as an imminent priority.

The survey also found less than one-third (31pc) of IT leaders in Ireland believed blockchain—which can make digital payments faster and more secure—would be essential to their organisation within the next three years.

These reported plans came despite the fact that global trends showed a move towards a more digitised way of doing business. Last year’s third annual Global Interconnection Index (GXI) forecast interconnection bandwidth requirements between enterprises and financial services providers would grow by 56pc CAGR by 2022—reflecting a significant increase in the number of companies directly connecting to financial services partners, including digital payment providers.

“In the words of a colleague of mine here at Equinix, ‘blockchain hasn’t met a use case that it doesn’t like’”

According to Maurice Mortell, managing director for Ireland at Equinix, Covid-19 has shown that digital transformation is central to the global economy and that enterprises can fail if they don’t – or aren’t able to – digitally evolve.

We asked Mortell how he feels businesses may feel about digitisation, especially since digital technologies are the reason many are still trading and functioning.

Are Irish firms now convinced about e-commerce or are they still under-investing?

The reaction to the pandemic has driven most businesses to review their e-commerce strategies. For small nimble businesses, moving to e-commerce can be quick and cost effective.

We have seen some fantastic examples in Ireland during this pandemic from small businesses who have pivoted their business almost overnight to maintain or create new revenue streams online. For larger businesses who are tied to existing applications and processes, and who are also tied to existing projects and plans, it requires greater organisational change.

But this pandemic has clearly focused the minds of businesses whose revenue streams have until now come from traditional bricks and mortar and we are seeing a collective and strong push towards e-commerce. You can see from recent reports showing an increase in .ie domain registrations from businesses right across Ireland that there has been an increased investment in digital commerce.

How far did the pandemic go to accelerate digital transformation of organisations in Ireland?

Digital transformation has moved from a buzzword to a pressing need. The pandemic has changed how business operate entirely and when you look at the speed at which that change has taken place, it’s phenomenal. Businesses who had never considered giving employees the flexibility to work remotely suddenly, overnight, had to rethink everything and ensure that they had the infrastructure in place to continue operating. But it goes beyond that: social distancing has meant that every person and business is thinking about how they can continue with their day-to-day tasks digitally. In many cases, if it can’t be done remotely, it can’t happen at all.

All of this has meant that businesses have had to get to grips with technology very quickly which has involved the mass adoption of cloud-first strategies. Cloud computing has become vital in ensuring enterprises can stay connected with their employees, customers and partners. They require scalable, virtual infrastructure and at Equinix, we have seen this led to greater adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud technology. And while it may have seemed optional to some a few months ago, cloud has in a very short space of time become something that enterprises realise they cannot live without.

There has been a huge, unprecedented change in how doing business is viewed and it’s hard to overstate the impact that the pandemic has had on that. I think that impact is going to continue long after COVID-19 has gone. Enterprises now understand and appreciate the value of digitisation and that is going to create a very competitive and exciting digital economy.

What are your thoughts on blockchain, will it ever become mainstream?

In the words of a colleague of mine here at Equinix, ‘blockchain hasn’t met a use case that it doesn’t like’. We are seeing use cases expand from cryptocurrency into areas such as data validation, data access, identity, tracking and tracing. Enterprises will connect to blockchains for services in the same way they connect to other networks. So yes, I do expect blockchain technology and distributed ledger technology to be mainstream within the next few years.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 10 August, 2020