Businesses worldwide are losing “digital IQ” at a rapid rate, according to a yearly survey conducted by PwC. The Digital IQ survey tabulates responses from business leaders at over 2,200 companies and defines Digital IQ as “the measurement of an organization’s abilities to harness and profit from technology.”

In 2016, 67% of businesses surveyed self-rated their digital IQ as strong. In 2017, which marks the survey’s tenth year, the number had fallen to 52%. 

Yet businesses were responding well to technology news, saying they had increased spending on emerging technologies over the decade, to 18% of the budget versus only 1% a decade ago.

Upper Management: More Digital Champions

The PwC survey also found that upper management overall is much more supportive of digital than they were a decade ago. In the 2017 findings, 68% of executive responders indicated that their chief executive officer (CEO) was a “champion for digital.” Ten years ago, only 33% of responders said CEOs championed digital.

And many respondents found that CEOs were tech and business strategy savvy. Overall, CEOs earned a Digital IQ score of 77%. The only two C-suite level positions who scored higher were Chief Design Officers, with a Digital IQ score of 85%, and Chief Information Officers, whose Digital IQ score was 79%. For both the latter two positions, digital is part of the direct wheelhouse.

Employees got generally positive nods as well. Sixty-five percent of those polled indicated their employees were skilled in the digital environment. 

Yet Perhaps Not Fully Integrated

The data was mixed about the implementation and integration of digital into firms. More companies than previously have plans for combining business and IT and spend on new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

However, they may not be fully harvesting or integrating new technology. Fifty-seven percent outsource digital rather than have in-house groups. Twenty-five percent use groups outside the company in addition to employees doing similar work. 

One reason may be concerns about the scope of digital projects. Just 55% of respondents indicated that their company’s digital initiatives were completed within their scope. 

Another reason may be the interface of digital and customer experience. Customer experience has dropped significantly as a priority at the companies surveyed. This year, only 10% termed it a top priority; just last year, 25% thought it was a top priority. 

In a report on the findings, Forbes observed that one of the reasons for the overall decline in Digital IQ could be the evolution of higher standards for what constitutes digital integration and sophistication over the decade. Since the first annual survey in 2007, digital has become both more common and more integrated into all areas. 

Nonetheless, PwC sees a need for more integration and more focus. PwC global digital leader Tom Puthiyamadam notes “companies are failing at alarming rates in driving business results from digital technology investments.”