Half of traditional non-tech firms now consider themselves tech firms

Nearly half (49 percent) of ‘traditional’ enterprises now consider themselves tech firms, and are adopting more ‘tech-like’ strategies, roles and tools to drive innovation and growth.The pandemic years forced traditional industries to digitise their operations at speed, but three years on, non-tech enterprises across the UK – from sectors including finance, advertising, manufacturing and more – are actively embracing the ‘tech mindset’ more than ever, according to a new report. The poll from Pendo [registration], claims that nearly half (49 percent) of ‘traditional’ enterprises now consider themselves tech firms, and are adopting more ‘tech-like’ strategies, roles and tools to drive innovation and growth.

Surveying R&D leaders and senior leadership at large companies with 500+ employees outside of the IT, software and hardware industries, Pendo claims to have found clear evidence of an overall shift towards a tech firms mindset: 65 percent cited agility, innovation and growth as their key focus today, with 34 percent already operating this way and nearly a third in the process of pivoting. Despite over half (56 percent) of those who consider themselves a technology company not even having a digital product or app live yet, the mindset focus and desire for the tech label demonstrates these companies’ strategic trajectory and the first step of widespread cultural change.

As tech firms themselves have made significant layoffs in recent months in response to the economic downturn, R&D talent is still in high demand among traditional enterprises, the report suggests. Product management teams – historically a staple function of tech organisations – have grown in headcount by about 9 percent since 2021 within traditional enterprises and are projected to continue growing at the same rate despite the downturn. For the majority of these companies (59 percent), the new hires have come primarily from tech companies, with these hires the biggest drivers of cultural change and mindset shift.

In the last two years, there’s been a strong focus on hiring data analytics roles, but companies are nowhere near filling their analytics teams fully — almost half (44 percent) of product teams in traditional enterprises say data analytics roles are most needed. The even greater need is for product management and growth roles, which over half of respondents (51 percent) say are key hires to achieve their business goals.

The report claims that R&D and digital product focused roles and teams are becoming essential to businesses and their bottom line. Interestingly, while ex-tech company hires have helped fill roles to date, there is a huge appetite today for upskilling and training initiatives, with 37 percent of product teams keen to fill future roles predominantly from within their existing teams.

The shift in business strategy and tactics has been complemented by investment in tools that are also more traditionally associated with tech companies. Product analytics tools rank highest among product teams in non-tech companies in terms of ROI – 75 percent that have already adopted these have seen a positive impact, with 4 in 5 valuing the ability to make informed decisions and 78 percent finding that product data and analytics are increasing efficiency when building digital products.

Despite the noise we’re seeing around AI, product teams rank these tools as the least important in the UK and very few are leveraging AI/ML tools today, according to the report. This is in contrast to the US which is far more advanced in the excitement for and adoption of AI/ML tools, with 77 percent of US product teams already seeing these have a positive effect on their product development.

There is also an expectations gap between senior leadership and R&D teams on-the-ground around AI skills too, with 51 percent of top enterprise leaders seeing these as important skills to realising business goals versus just 26 percent of middle managers and contributors.