COVID-19 prompts surge in digital business initiatives

Tuesday, 06 October, 2020

COVID-19 prompts surge in digital business initiatives

The 2021 Gartner Board of Directors Survey has revealed that 69% of boards of directors (BoDs) accelerated their digital business initiatives in the wake of the disruption caused by COVID-19, with almost half anticipating changes to their organisations’ business model as a result of the pandemic.

The survey was conducted via an online survey from May through June 2020 with 265 respondents in the US, EMEA and APAC in a board of director role of a member of the corporate board of directors.

The survey aimed to understand how boards of directors view digital-business-driven business model evolution in their enterprises along with the role of the CIO and other executive leaders, specifically in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

Partha Iyengar, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said BoDs help the executive leadership team focus beyond the short-term risks associated with this extended pandemic.

“Technology-driven digital transformation can, and should be, a strong enabler in addressing employee, customer, supply chain and broad brand impact to position the enterprise to come out of the crisis stronger,” Iyengar said.

The survey found that 67% of BoDs expect budgetary increases in technology as a result of the pandemic, while budgetary cuts are predicted for functional areas such as marketing and HR. Respondents expected a 7% increase in their IT budgets for 2020, with analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) expected to emerge stronger as game-changer technologies, with enterprises leaning on them to drive better decision-making in the remote-work-first environment.

“The long-term ask of BoDs during COVID-19 is to approve forward-looking investments even in the face of potentially plummeting revenue and profits,” Iyengar said.

Driven by the onset of COVID-19, digital technology initiatives are predicted to be the top strategic business priority for BoDs over the next two years, followed by customer engagement and managing the remote workforce.

The survey revealed that 86% of respondents viewed technology as having a transformational role in addressing strategic business priorities, which is why most organisations are expected to create a new ‘Chief Digital Officer’ role to respond to COVID-19 in the long term.

“BoDs must take innovative approaches to their governance models by leveraging technologies and IT expertise to accommodate the impacts that the pandemic is thrusting upon their digital transformation agendas,” Iyengar said.

Almost all BoDs expect functional leaders to collaborate with one another during COVID-19, with more than half believing that CIOs serve as partners with senior business leaders, while over a third expect the CIO to lead digital business issues alone.

Long-term renewal is an important focus area for the board, with 28% of respondents focusing on the ‘Renew’ phase of The Reset.

Conversely, 18% of executive management is focused on renewal, with just under half reporting it being their core focus area.

“CIOs and the rest of the executive management team should engage with the BoD on creating a longer-term strategy for revival — and even survival — post-crisis,” Iyengar said.

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