While most IT and business executives believe a digital business model is critical for success, security concerns and lack of organizational flexibility are keeping the majority from from fully embracing the digital transition. That’s according to a new survey from Unisys and IDG Research that polled 175 IT and business executives at US and European companies that have 1,000 employees or more.

The CXOs were asked about “the initiatives their organizations are undertaking to capitalize on the convergence of social, cloud, mobility, data analytics, internet of things (IoT) and security to drive new business models and engage, enable and support an increasingly tech-savvy workforce and customer base,” according to a press release.

About 72% of executives said that it is “critical” or “very important” for an organization to implement a digital business model–up from 65% in a similar survey conducted in October 2015. Respondents also reported that 55% of their company’s apps were already in the cloud. “The respondents clearly see the value of the cloud as the linchpin in an IT infrastructure that enables digital business,” the press release noted.

SEE: 3 things you can learn from the NFL about digital transformation (ZDNet) and How the NFL and its stadiums became leaders in Wi-Fi, monetizing apps, and customer experience (TechRepublic)

Most executives reported that digital initiatives including cloud usage were bettering their business practices. In the last year, 56% of executives reported improvements in data security, and 44% reported enhanced user experience with applications and services. Additionally, 42% said IT efficiency improved, and 41% said infrastructure performance and availability did as well.

However, the vast majority of CXOs don’t believe their organizations can continue the success of early digital ventures. Only 15% of executives said that their companies are flexible and agile enough to build a digital business model.

Building a digital business model

Organizational flexibility was the key factor determining the gap between desire and execution of digital business models, the survey found.

Some 56% of executives who reported that their company was “extremely nimble” said they saw improved speed of business decision-making, compared to just 18% of executives who said their company was “less nimble.” And 52% of CXOs from the “extremely nimble” group said they have seen improved user experience with applications and services, compared to 38% of the “less nimble” group.

Executives from more flexible organizations also reported improved data security, and better customer service practices through integrating infrastructure and applications with IoT.

This is not a surprise, as the current technology market benefits companies with an agile, adaptable infrastructure, wrote TechRepublic contributor Patrick Gray. “If nothing else, it’s critical for IT leaders to emphasize smaller and flexible, whether directly related to technology or the business model that the technology supports,” Gray wrote in May.

What’s more, embracing a digital business model is imperative for a company to remain competitive in today’s digital economy, wrote TechRepublic contributor Brian Taylor. A commitment to data collection and analysis can aid organizations in marketing and growth efforts, TechRepublic editor Jason Hiner recently reported.

Organizations are using big data and IoT in a variety of ways to enhance business practices and customer experience. Here are some tips for succeeding on an IoT project at your company.

SEE: Ebook–IT leader’s guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

Digital security problems

Another large gap between executives’ digital commitments and business realities involves security practices, the survey found. While 88% of CXOs said data security in the cloud was a top priority for digital business competitiveness, only 32% reported significant progress enhancing security procedures. This is a problem, as organizations are increasingly losing data as a result of security breaches, TechRepublic news editor Conner Forrest recently reported.

Last week, the Cloud Security Alliance released the top 100 big data security best practices. Organizations should also consider how to create an effective privacy policy that protects both the company and its customers, as Mary Shacklett writes for Tech Pro Research.

As more businesses commit to making the transition to fully-digital operations, they must find innovative ways to reach both employees and customers, said Steve Nunn, vice president of cloud and infrastructure services at Unisys, in the press release.

“This research points the way for organizations to become more nimble and successful in capitalizing on present and future business challenges,” Nunn said in the release. “The organizations that will prosper in the new order are those that most quickly become focused, proficient and flexible in integrating and securing the cloud, IoT and other key digital technologies to drive new levels of service.”

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. While 72% of IT and business executives report that a digital business model is critical for success in today’s market, only 15% say they believe their company has the ability to fully build and leverage this model, according to a new survey from Unisys.
  2. The disparity seems to stem from whether or not an organization considers itself to be agile enough to handle changes. Those that said they were “extremely nimble” saw improvements in speed of business decisions, data security, and customer service practices, compared to those who identified as “less nimble.”
  3. Businesses must make good on their commitments to embrace a digital model in order to stay relevant and competitive in today’s market, as well as to provide better employee and customer experiences, experts say.