Gartner Research

Executive Pulse: An Efficiency Push Spurred by Spending Constraints

Published: 04 June 2020


Here’s a roll-up of pandemic-related executive sentiment and insights from thousands of functional leaders across the C-suite.

Fast word on tactics and concerns from thousands participating in our conference calls and polls.

More detailed role-specific reports may be available on the website, depending on your subscription.

Though 28% of CFOs said in mid-April that liquidity was a top business concern, that’s dropped to just 4%. That change doesn’t mean they aren’t worried.

They tell us they are still nervous about ...

  • Macro-economic uncertainties over the pandemic and the economy (29% of respondents in our most recent snap polls)

  • Revenue losses and a reduction in customer demand (23%)

  • Business continuity and firm-specific operations, including supply chain and logistics (23%)

And so they anticipate average budget reductions within a range of 4% to 8% in most functions over the course of this year. Marketing continues to be on finance chiefs’ radar as a target for more shrinkage than the rest (11%).

Figure 1: CFO Projected Budget Changes for 2020

Finance leaders predict that marketing’s hit this year won’t save it from a further 1.8% trim, on average, next year. They see another round of cuts for real estate, communications, and supply chain, flat R&D spending and a bump for sales (1.6%) and IT spending (0.8%).

Figure 2: CFO Projected Budget Changes for 2021

To get ready for the shape of things to come, automation and productivity projects are in the works across the enterprise ...

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) have been dialing back on external brand promotion, including media buying and use of external ad agencies.

They are preparing the case to defend or accelerate investments in digital marketing and e-commerce over the next 18 months:

  • Integrating data sources and strengthening data analytics to better understand customer behaviors and needs

  • Working to automate processes

  • Understanding how customers interact with the online purchasing process to guide improvements

  • Reevaluating and building customer segments and personas

The majority (69%) of IT leaders, including chief information officers, report they are moving forward with IT projects selectively — taking care not to overspend. They are also...

  • Shifting IT resources to the most critical business outcomes (48%)

  • Deferring or reducing spending (47%)

  • Investing to improve productivity, digital and IT services continuity (41%)

Figure 3: CIO Cost Management

Corporate real estate leaders are...

  • Deferring new construction projects (89%)

  • Renegotiating vendor/service provider contracts (69%)

  • Renegotiating lease terms with landlords (48%)

  • Deferring rent payments in places where temporary relief is available (48%)

  • Canceling in-progress construction projects (37%)

One hundred forty-five executives responding to a separate financial services survey told us they are planning to manage costs by investing in operational efficiency projects, such as:

  • Accelerated automation initiatives (45%)

  • Redesign of organizational structures and workflows (45%)

  • Tools and training to boost productivity (44%)

Figure 4: Measures to Manage Financial Services Expenses

Compiled by Daniel Ryntjes

Contact with any questions or comments.

Recommended by the Authors

The impacts of COVID-19 need a cross-functional response. Access all of our research to help your partners in assurance, supply chain, HR, IT and others act quickly and confidently. You’ll find tips, toolkits and other planning advice.

Cost optimization can be risky. The wrong moves can result in cuts that impede an organization’s ability to maintain liquidity, retain key talent, keep innovating and prepare for recovery. We’ve provided the research and tools to help leaders make data-driven decisions supported by proven approaches.


Corporate Strategy Research Team

Access Research

Already a Gartner client?

To view this research and much more, become a client.

Speak with a Gartner specialist to learn how you can access peer and practitioner research backed by proprietary data, insights, advice and tools to help you achieve stronger performance.

By clicking the "Continue" button, you are agreeing to the Gartner Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Gartner research: Trusted insight for executives and their teams

What is Gartner research?

Gartner research, which includes in-depth proprietary studies, peer and industry best practices, trend analysis and quantitative modeling, enables us to offer innovative approaches that can help you drive stronger, more sustainable business performance.

Gartner research is unique, thanks to:

Independence and objectivity

Our independence as a research firm enables our experts to provide unbiased advice you can trust.

Actionable insights

Not only is Gartner research unbiased, it also contains key take-aways and recommendations for impactful next steps.

Proprietary methodologies

Our research practices and procedures distill large volumes of data into clear, precise recommendations.

Gartner research is just one of our many offerings.

We provide actionable, objective insight to help organizations make smarter, faster decisions to stay ahead of disruption and accelerate growth.

Tap into our experts

We offer one-on-one guidance tailored to your mission-critical priorities.

Pick the right tools and providers

We work with you to select the best-fit providers and tools, so you avoid the costly repercussions of a poor decision.

Create a network

Connect directly with peers to discuss common issues and initiatives and accelerate, validate and solidify your strategy.

Experience Gartner Conferences

Join your peers for the unveiling of the latest insights at Gartner conferences.

©2022 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and its affiliates. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without Gartner’s prior written permission. It consists of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization, which should not be construed as statements of fact. While the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner research may address legal and financial issues, Gartner does not provide legal or investment advice and its research should not be construed or used as such. Your access and use of this publication are governed by Gartner’s Usage Policy. Gartner prides itself on its reputation for independence and objectivity. Its research is produced independently by its research organization without input or influence from any third party. For further information, see Guiding Principles on Independence and Objectivity.