More than a third (40%) of businesses believe that recruiting staff with suitable skills is a significant barrier to digital progress, making it a bigger problem than 'legacy systems and processes'.

This finding comes from Econsultancy's latest research into organisational structures and digital leadership, entitled Effective Leadership in the Digital Age.

The survey of more than 400 senior staff looks at what makes a good leader and a good culture within a digital business.

As you can see from the chart below, there has been a dramatic improvement in systems and processes, which appear to have undergone a renaissance in the last two years.

Those identifying legacy systems as a significant barrier to digital progress dropped from 58% in 2013, to 35% in 2015.

The biggest four challenges for senior staff are now fairly evenly matched; finding staff with suitable digital skills (40%), focus on short-term revenue targets (39%), difficulty joining up data (36%) and legacy systems and processes (35%).

chart showing skills shortage as main barrier to digital progress

Many businesses have replatformed

The data above could indicate that 2014 and 2015 have been years of significant platform upheaval for many businesses as they address legacy issues.

Indeed, looking at ecommerce specifically, the Technology for Ecommerce reports produced by Econsultancy in 2014 and 2015 suggested as much.

The chart below shows that 51% had replatformed or were currently replatforming in 2015. Interestingly, 75% of the respondents who had already replatformed had done so in the last one to two years.

Reasons for replatforming were chiefly a disparity between the importance and functionality of certain features, with lack of support for mobile the number one gripe.

Given 2014 saw Google take mobile performance into greater consideration for search rankings, it's no surprise many chose to replatform.

chart showing replatforming ecommerce businesses in 2014 and 2015

The next challenge is data, people and culture

So, if we look back to our chart of barriers to digital progress selected by senior figures, we can see the main challenges as data (joining it up), people (finding the skilled ones) and mindset/financial strategy (developing a longer term revenue goal).

Joining up data represents the next step after replatforming, and one would expect to see gradual improvement on this front through 2016.

People and culture are proving somewhat of a catch 22, with leadership key to improving both. There's a massive talent grab still going on as leaders champion a 'digital culture' to try to attract and retain the right people.

Senior staff responding to our leadership survey described what they viewed as the characteristics of a 'digital culture'.

'Customer-centric' (58%) and 'data-driven' (40%) were out in front, ahead of intra-team characteristics such as 'collaboration' and 'agility'.

what is a digital culture?

For much more on leadership in the digital age, download the new report here.

Ben Davis

Published 30 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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