Gartner Research

Executive Pulse: The Acceleration of Digital Commitments

Published: 13 August 2020

ID: G00733976

Analyst(s): Corporate Strategy Research Team


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 andpolls.

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In the face of widespread and sudden recession, companies are accelerating and increasing their digital bets — not just holding the line, but deepening their commitment throughout the organization. From the board to IT to other functions such as supply chain, leaders are looking to technology to solve crisis-related problems and also to change fundamental market expectations and behaviors for years to come.

More than half of IT and other business leaders predict a decline in revenues for their organizations over the next twelve months.

Yet 86% of them also expect an increase in digital investments over the same period … with a quarter predicting an increase above 20%.

Figure 1. Organizations Increase Digital Investments Despite Revenue Shocks

Seven in ten board members say COVID-19 has also increased support for long-term digital business initiatives. In a survey of 265 board members, they are seeking to ...

  • Improve operational performance (60%).

  • Make spending more efficient (50%).

  • Expand digital business opportunities (48%).

Four in ten are considering a complete digitally-driven transformation of their business model.

Figure 2. Impact of COVID-19 Disruptions on Organization’s Digital Business Initiatives

The Asia/Pacific region is setting the pace; 82% of board members there say digital business initiatives are accelerating, compared with 69% in Europe and the Middle East and 64% in North America.

That’s also reflected in tech budgets … with APAC board directors reporting an average 13% rise for 2020, compared with 6% for Europe and North America.

Underlying all of this is a perception that organizations have no choice but to go all in on digital, given it’s preeminent position in shaping business strategy and further disrupting conventional approaches.

Figure 3. Digital Disruption Is the Top External Trend Shaping Business Strategy

In response to the virus crisis, the most common top new leadership position that companies are thinking about creating is chief digital officer.

Figure 4. New C-level Roles Created to Respond to COVID-19

To realize the benefits of digital transformation, corporate directors also want existing executive leaders to be more flexible ...

  • Eighty-nine percent think executives need to have strong cross-functional collaboration.

  • Seventy-two percent are considering changes to the organizational structure.

  • Fifty four percent want leaders to manage functions more like tech startups.

Supply Chain leaders, hit early and hard by the global implications of the pandemic, provide a good example of how executive leadership is embracing digital business transformation.

In a global survey of 585 supply chain executives technology (including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and robotics) is seen as the most positively disruptive force affecting their competitive position so far this year.

Figure 5. Impact of the Most Disruptive Event on the Supply Chain’s Competitive Position So Far

Supply chain leaders also experience disruptive events that lie outside their immediate control … namely politics. Twenty-three percent say political shifts are having a negative impact on their competitive position. These risks include trade policy, tariffs, immigration and migration, armed conflict, terrorism and regulatory requirements.

Some of the efforts underway to mitigate the risks of any type of upheaval are:

  • Active consideration and shaping of supply location concentration, such as less reliance on China (45%).

  • Performance based contracts with suppliers and/or customers (50%).

  • Dual or multi sourcing supply (43%).

  • Supplier requirements for multiple/alternative sites (42%).

Compiled by Daniel Ryntjes

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