Dive Brief:

  • A lean 2020 is making way for what 60{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of CEOs say will be an economic boom, with 35{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of CEOs expecting their companies to return to or exceed 2019 revenue levels this year, according to Gartner data released Tuesday. While growth is a top business priority for 2021 and 2022, 36{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of CEOs say business priorities are technology-related. 

  • Gartner data shows more CEOs are using the term “digital” unprompted, though it has different meanings. CEOs are often referring to e-commerce/e-business when referring to digital business, but the term can also reference data and analytics, the customer experience, or customer interactions, among other options. 

  • More CEOs are mentioning digitalization and e-commerce/omnichannel technology as business priorities while attention to digital transformation has dropped off, according to the report, which surveyed 465 CEOs and senior business executives in the second half of 2020. While 83{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} of CEOs plan to increase investments in digital capabilities this year compared to 2020 funding levels, CEOs plan to spend less on information technology.

Dive Insight:

While technology was a business continuity savior last year, companies are deciding what role it will play in the business long-term. 

Expected to quickly restore returns to investors, CEOs in the next few years have to try and understand the social and business landscape and find where the growth opportunity lies, said Mark Raskino, distinguished research VP at Gartner. After a major crisis, just as companies responded after the financial crisis, CEOs will reframe long-term strategy.

The attention on growth after recovery means CEOs and other top executives will have laser focus on what will serve the business long term, according to Raskino. Mentions of digital technologies in passing will all appeal to the underlying motivation of a company.

“For the IT leaders,” Raskino said, “the question is going to be, what’s the use case for a technology?”

The pandemic served as a catalyst for companies to change technology and processes wallowing in the stack. CEOs will draft new guiding business goals and motivations while the fervor of transformation subsides. 

“The way that the apex technology leaders work, whatever title we give them, with the CEO is the most important thing right now,” Raskino said. To help grow the business, it would be better if the CIO delegates IT operations to a deputy so they can focus on setting the technology agenda, framing it for the highest-value outcome.

With more focus on agenda setting from the CIO office, the company “isn’t squandering its precious capital on relatively incremental improvement when it needs to make the biggest strides possible,” he said. 

Complacency threatens businesses moving forward as technology leaders bask in success from rapid changes in 2020, missing the opportunity for deeper digital change. 

“There’s a lot of pressure on [CEOs] to make money, to grow,” and return money to investors, Raskino said. No matter how a company uses digital technology, it will be necessary to the business.

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