Gartner Business Quarterly

Proven guidance for C-suite action

2022 Q3

Human Leadership of Digital Business

Fine-tune relationship between people and machines to accelerate digital growth

Despite increasing technology investments, the push for transformation seems to stall or unsettle the people who need most to believe in it.

  • CFOs say their own mindsets are a barrier to digital acceleration than either talent or cost 
  • CMOs feel bogged down in endless programming details and quests for data points 
  • Executive leaders are unsure of how to get the most out of their talent in a hybrid realm

The Q3 edition provides guidance on how human leaders must evolve along with the networks of systems and software they’re building to drive better business outcomes. 


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    In this issue

    Human Leadership of Digital Business
    Letter From the Editor

    Despite the money and ambition fueling technology investments, this is the season of our digital discontent.

    Most organizations want to maintain or continue to speed up their digital spending in 2022, but the push for transformation seems to stall or unsettle the people who need most to believe in it.  

    CFOs say their own mindsets are a higher barrier to acceleration than either talent or cost. Chief marketing officers take pride in their progress but tell us they now feel bogged down in endless programming details and quests for data points. Executive leaders in every quarter of the enterprise don’t know how to get the most out of flesh-and-blood talent now that they all work in a hybrid realm.

    To reach the promised heights — of productivity, creativity, and prosperity — human leaders must evolve along with the networks of systems and software they’re building. It’s a time to fine-tune the relationship between people and machines: to face fears, change behavior and rethink the design of your own job, along with those of others.

    This issue of Gartner Business Quarterly will show you how. You’ll learn from the real-world experience of organizations from around the globe, including Mastercard, Unilever, Clorox, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Akebia Therapeutics and Express Scripts.

    GBQ helps you align with others and reach peak effectiveness, so your enterprise can achieve its goals, be bold and principled, and bring employees, investors and the public along for the ride.

    Our standing departments keep you up to speed — Cutting Edge is a look at provocative new data; Briefs offer short takes about smarter spending and planning, talent and culture, growth and innovation, and data and technology.

    We welcome your feedback. Please contact me at

    — Judy Pasternak

    CFOs Must Change to Unlock the Future of Autonomous Finance  
    Autonomous finance should not be a pipe dream. After all, the necessary tools are operational and evolving quickly. But few CFOs are making headway and they recognize the biggest problem is their own mindset — ahead of both talent and cost issues. They should make three shifts.

    Marketing Needs Human Superpowers for the Digital Era
    While the digital marketing function is now a reality, the expected era of innovation has not followed. Marketing executives find themselves chasing one last data point or complying with cookie rules. But they can get strategic again if they unleash people skills in a new way, helping everyone in the enterprise who uses customer information.

    The Right Role for Sales Reps in Digital Commerce 
    Executive leaders in sales, IT, marketing and customer experience should stop designing online aids for buyers to use on their own and build them instead for real-time collaboration between customers and sellers. This is where sales reps add value now and in the future.

    A New Tech Strategy to Energize the Front Line in Financial Services
    Well-intentioned financial services executives invest in technology to boost efficiency, assuming tools free up time for tasks that matter most to frontline performance metrics. But this emphasis hurts as much as it helps: more than 4 in 10 customer-facing employees say tech adds new tasks and requires more skills. The solution: redesign jobs and offer tech that supports a new focus.

    In a Hybrid World, Leaders Need Help Being Human
    The digital business environment hasn’t dehumanized employees, as many leaders once feared. On the contrary, employees expect a more human experience at work. And it must start at the top, with the people who design jobs and manage teams. Yet only 29% of staff consider their skip-level leaders effective at being authentic, adapting to individual needs while achieving goals and cutting red tape. Here are some training tips.

    How to Fortify the Board’s Expertise
    Corporate boards frequently lack the knowledge to help enterprises navigate new challenges. Although the general counsel often evaluates director skills, nearly half of companies take no follow-up action. And that’s a missed opportunity.

    The Skills of Tomorrow: How Critical Roles Are Evolving
    Even the most sophisticated predictive analytics will not be able to anticipate your organization’s future skills needs — too much is changing too fast. A better way to stay ahead: position the enterprise to flex as new job requirements arise. To do that, develop sensing mechanisms, including an external market perspective. Enter the “skills life cycle,” which leverages nearly eight million job postings from S&P 100 companies to visualize how the most competitive positions for information security, supply chain, finance and HR are changing — which skills are increasingly sought, and which are waning in listings.

    Smash 3 Cybersecurity Myths to Improve Employee Behavior
    Employees flouting cybersecurity rules is an intractable problem in the workplace — and it’s an issue that’s not going away. And executive leaders who try to enforce more secure behavior by shining the spotlight on security awareness, or through good “tone at the top,” are likely doing little to improve the situation. A rethink is required: lighten the burden of compliance, hold people accountable and put risks into context.

    Collaboration Hot Spots: What’s Frustrating (and What Works) for 5 Enterprise Activities Where Functions Pull Together

    At least three functions — and at times, seven or more — get involved when organizations tackle these important challenges: resilience, customer experience, ESG, information governance and innovation. Hundreds of responses from surveys of executives working on these activities provide a glimpse into the state of play — who’s involved, what’s not going so well and, in conclusion, what might separate the good results from the bad.

    The Whiteboard: Big Questions About Strengthening Objectivity in Business Processes
    Have you heard about the hot hand, anchoring, overconfidence, groupthink, recency or the halo effect? These are just six of the dozens of mental shortcuts that create human-reasoning errors everywhere, including, of course, in business activities. Different cognitive biases may crop up depending on whether you’re conducting an audit, investing in cryptocurrency, or deciding on a performance management system. Can we help decision-makers fight fallacies and minimize the problems they cause?

    About Gartner Business Quarterly

    Gartner Business Quarterly provides business executives with insights from best practices research and the real-world experience of practitioners. The journal’s insights especially equip executives to tackle challenges that cut across the C-suite and affect multiple executive teams. Writers, contributors and data analysts are members of Gartner Research & Advisory (R&A) whose teams are led by Senior VP Val Sribar. The Gartner Business Quarterly publication is led by Editor-in-Chief Judy Pasternak with executive sponsorship by Group VP Scott Christofferson.