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Survey: Middle Market Companies Boosting Tech Upgrades to Drive Growth

Date: Nov 13, 2019 @ 07:20 AM
Filed Under: Industry News

Computer hardware and software upgrades are topping the list of investments planned by middle market companies, which regard technology as a key driver of their growth, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll for CIT Group Inc.

Middle market business leaders overwhelmingly agree (92 percent) that technology investment is critical to their ability to attract and retain customers, according to the survey. And a large majority (68 percent) also say investments in technology helped their business grow during the past 12 months – well ahead of offering new products (51 percent) or improving their supply chain (48 percent).

For those middle market executives planning to invest in the year ahead, technology priorities include cyber-security and data privacy (74 percent), big-data analytics (73 percent), artificial intelligence (66 percent), automation (62 percent) and blockchain platforms (48 percent).

Vital role of talent

But technology alone isn’t enough. The survey also highlights the vital role that skilled employees play in providing high-touch levels of customer service. Nine in 10 middle market leaders agree that, even in this technological age, high-touch service is as important as ever.

“Middle market companies are clearly reaping rewards from the digital technologies that are transforming American business,” said David Harnisch, CIT’s President of Commercial Finance. “But they also know that having the right talent to leverage their technology is critical to success as well.”

A large majority (85 percent) believe their current workforce has the technical skills needed to keep pace with digital transformation. Nearly identical proportions (83 percent) agree that hiring more tech-savvy talent is imperative.

“Business technology is delivering new capabilities all the time,” said Denise Menelly, CIT’s Executive Vice President and Head of Technology and Operations. “But technology alone only goes so far. Smart, agile, tech-savvy employees are essential to helping businesses fully realize the benefits of their technological capabilities.”

The CIT-sponsored survey of leaders at U.S. middle market businesses was designed to illuminate the intersection of technology and talent – two of the most important factors driving today’s businesses.

The topic was inspired in part by CIT’s own success in better serving customers by combining digital capabilities with deep professional expertise. By leveraging innovative technologies to transfer and analyze data more quickly, CIT is better able to focus the expertise of its leaders on developing the right financing solutions for its middle market clients.

Investing for growth

Appreciation for the role of technology runs deep among middle-sized businesses. Nine of 10 respondents, for example, believe they must continuously invest in business technology to remain competitive. Two out of three are even sacrificing spending in other areas of their business to ensure they can pay for the technology they believe they need to compete and grow.

 The findings come at a time when middle market companies, like other American businesses, increasingly rely on digital technologies to provide growth opportunities. Middle market leaders believe disruptive technologies are second only to improved cash flow in the potential to have a positive impact on their businesses.

“Technology has upended business models in industries from movies, music and media to retail and travel,” Harnisch said. “Our survey confirms that middle market businesses are focused on harnessing the power of digital technologies to better serve customers and improve profitability.”

Focus on increased cyber-security
The survey also reflects increasing awareness of the severe business disruption and reputational damage that can result from cyber-intrusions and data breaches.

Risk of a security or data breach was cited by survey respondents as their No. 1 technology concern — far outpacing such other challenges as integrating new technology with existing systems, having enough tech-savvy employees or facing upstart competitors. Nearly 3 in 4 respondents (74 percent) said spending on increased cyber-security and data privacy was their leading technology investment objective over the next 12 months.

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