Northern Irish Enterprise Awards 2023

SME News- Northern Irish Enterprise Awards 2023 | 12 New technology overtakes ESG as a priority for British business Nine in 10 (91%) British business leaders are actively investigating ways to bring new technology into their organisations in the face of a rapid rise in tech options, such as the adoption of AI. Advanced's 2023/24 Trends Report – combining more than 6,600 senior executive voices from a cross-section of British business – indicates that technological advancement is outpacing longerstanding objectives such as ESG and DE&I for business leaders in the UK. These are reported as priorities for only around half of businesses, representing a significant fall from the company's 2022/23 report when three-quarters said ESG was a growing priority. The report illustrates a clear shift in strategic priorities and direction for businesses as they grapple with new challenges relating to the economy, political turmoil overseas and managing the rise of AI. The report indicates that ESG has had to be strategically deprioritised as businesses focus on day-to-day survival. Instead, businesses report focusing on top priorities including digital advancement, attracting and retaining talent, cybersecurity and data protection, cashflow and managing the cost of doing business crisis. Systems businesses are most likely to invest in include digital immune systems (75%); adaptive AI (51%) and applied observability (39%). Business owners reported seeking better systems integration; improved functionality, security and remote access; and increased business intelligence as a result of technological investments. Over half (58%) of business leaders say they are already using AI tools. Simon Walsh, CEO of business software firm Advanced, said: "Businesses are facing acute external pressures which are forcing many to make difficult decisions about where priorities lie in the fight to survive. "A massive 91% of business owners, CEOs and MDs told us that they plan to upgrade their digital systems, seeking benefits such as automation in data processing and more effective prioritisation of workloads from their digital growth. Digital transformation was signalled as a core business priority for 2024 for two fifths (41%) of business leaders around the UK. "Attracting and retaining talent is the number one challenge for organisations in the UK and addressing this is a priority for almost half (47%) of all respondents. Against a turbulent economic and political backdrop, business leaders are being forced to focus their efforts on future-proofing their operations with technical investment, alongside practical issues like talent retention and cashflow, at the expense of initiatives like ESG and DE&I." Of those operating an ESG strategy, maintaining compliance with legislation was a top motivator for two thirds (62%). Around half (53%) said their ESG was motivated by reputation, while 47% sought to make a positive impact on their communities. Meanwhile, ESG was more likely to be deprioritised outside of London. Six% of London businesses aren't currently prioritising ESG, compared to an average of 11.6% in England and Wales excluding London, 9% in Scotland and 15% in Northern Ireland. The latest Government policies have also indicated a broader reduction in the national focus on ESG – such as September's change to net zero policies. "British businesses are facing very real and pressing issues and are having to adapt and evolve at pace thanks both to the high-pressure backdrop caused by the economy and the rapid advancement of new technology such as adaptive AI. This high speed evolution brings with it its own challenges, for example with AI, understanding the safe and responsible use of this powerful new tool," added Simon. The Advanced Trends Report 2023/24 surveyed over 6,600 senior executives in the UK on the opportunities and challenges within their business. Now in its eighth year, the 2023/24 report canvassed insights from its largest ever sample size.