Three in four UK businesses don’t feel on a strong footing to deal with future change

Seventy-four percent of UK businesses don’t feel on a strong footing to deal with future change, as they face the start of another tumultuous year.

According to new research commissioned by DocuSign, tech innovation and digital skills are seen as key to equipping firms with the ability to adapt to change and capitalise on opportunities, but they are being held back by skills shortages, outdated infrastructure and a lack of budget for capital investment.

When asked which skills they consider to be most valuable for future success, over half (55%) of the 450 UK business decision makers polled ranked digital and technical skills as one of the most important, and that figure rose to 63% among enterprise sized businesses (1,000+ employees). 

Recruitment and talent management are the main priorities for the majority (56%) of UK businesses but with the labour market set to remain tight in 2023, many businesses cannot be positive about gaining the digital skills they crave. 

Similarly, innovation in technology, such as becoming a digital-first company, is seen as one of the most critical factors in enabling their ability to capitalise on opportunities by a third (33%) of all UK firms, and 43% of UK enterprises. 

However, nearly a fifth (18%) are grappling with a lack of the right skills or expertise within the business to fully capitalise on market opportunities, and 16% see existing tech infrastructure as their most significant barrier to future progress.

There is a clear ambition to overcome such challenges, and nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents have focused on improving their core IT processes in the last two years, and a further 26% plan to in the next twelve months. Similarly, half of businesses have invested in physical employee infrastructure (54%), with video conferencing tools and collaboration software being key investments for 45% and 44% respectively.

Yet despite such investments, cost barriers impede further modernisation. In fact, cost is holding back over two in five businesses (44%) from investing more in digital transformation. Currently only 29% review or change their IT processes once a year or more frequently.

Ronan Copeland, Group VP & GM, EMEA, DocuSign comments: “UK businesses face a challenging 2023. Greater digitisation is enabling new market opportunities, but many say they need a stronger economic situation before further investment. Those that do feel most ‘future ready’ are prioritising iterative steps to optimise their processes to get them closer to their goals, something those who don’t feel as confident can take solace from.”

5 things we learned from the most ‘future-ready’ businesses

One in four UK companies (24%) feel entirely ready to adapt to change and maximise future opportunities.

Of those:

  • The majority (64%) rate digital skills as critical to their business (far greater than the 52% for the rest of sample)
  • Two thirds have built a digital-first culture (66% v 45% on average)
  • Seven in ten have adopted a digital first strategy (69% v 45% on average)
  • They are more likely than other respondents to have already invested in digitising their workflows and removing friction from legacy systems
  • As a result, they are more likely to feel they have no barriers standing in the way of them modernising their infrastructure and/or investing more heavily in digital transformation initiatives (14% v 5%)


The survey was conducted among 450 UK Business Decision Makers across all sectors and amongst startups, SMBs and enterprises.

The interviews were conducted online by Sapio Research in October and November 2022 using an email invitation and an online survey.

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DocuSign helps organisations connect and automate how they prepare, sign, act on, and manage agreements. As part of the DocuSign Agreement Cloud, DocuSign offers eSignature, the world's #1 way to sign electronically on practically any device, from almost anywhere, at any time. Today, over a million customers and more than a billion users in over 180 countries use the DocuSign Agreement Cloud to accelerate the process of doing business and to simplify people's lives.

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