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Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation grew 18% in 2020 to become the top business initiative, according to Acorio, an NTT DATA company and ServiceNow consultancy. According to the executive summary of the third annual ServiceNow Insight & Vision Report, which is due out in May, digital transformation edged out service management and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) as the top concern for businesses.

The 2021 ServiceNow Insight & Vision Report tracks digital transformation in organizations, how global challenges impact technology strategy and how ServiceNow is being utilized throughout the enterprise.

“Where before COVID-19 many enterprises were using digital to incrementally improve parts of their businesses, we now see these same traditional enterprises were forced to rethink their technology into a more wide-spread strategy and execution in order to serve the new needs of their operations, employees and customers,” the report said.

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Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents place digital transformation above service management as their top business priority–up 18% over 2019. Almost half of that growth is a direct result of COVID-19, with 41% of organizations saying it was the main reason for starting or increasing digital transformation efforts. At 59%, AI/ML also topped the list of technology initiatives.

While 60% of respondents said they have been working on digital transformation for over a year, 14% said they are just getting started, 9% are still in the planning stages and 14% said they are “almost done.” Twenty six percent of organizations said they only started using AI/ML since the pandemic.

The survey also found organizations focusing their digital transformation on customers by:

  • Integrating customer data across silos to understand customer behavior and enhance the customer experience.

  • Driving compelling customer experiences using custom apps.

  • Improving emotional connections with customers to improve loyalty.

Employees were also top-of-mind. Survey respondents said they have “begun to focus on their employee experience as intently as they do on their customer experience” by:

  • Increasing employee engagement so they have an emotional connection to the company.

  • Talking about automation with their employees to assuage concerns and understand where and how automation will help them do their jobs better.

  • Cross-training employees to make the company more agile in the face of change.

About the survey

Acorio’s ServiceNow Insight & Vision Survey was conducted completely anonymously through an online platform, SurveyMonkey, and is based on 492 responses from individual participants, all of whom were required to provide demographic information, including company size, job role, department, company industry and whether or not they used ServiceNow.