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Gartner Says 69% of Boards of Directors Accelerated Their Digital Business Initiatives Following COVID-19 Disruption

Almost Half of BoDs Anticipate Changing Their Organizations’ Business Model as a Result of the Pandemic

Sixty-nine percent of boards of directors (BoDs) accelerated their digital business initiatives in the wake of COVID-19 disruption, according to a new survey from Gartner, Inc. Almost half anticipate changing their organizations’ business model as a result of the pandemic.

The 2021 Gartner Board of Directors Survey was conducted via an online survey from May through June 2020 with 265 respondents in the U.S., EMEA and APAC in a board of director role or 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.  

“BoDs play a strong role in helping the executive leadership team focus beyond the short-term risks associated with this extended pandemic,” said Partha Iyengar, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “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.”

COVID-19 Is Prompting Budgetary Changes for BoDs

The majority of BoDs (67%) expect budgetary increases in technology as a result of the pandemic, while functional areas such as marketing and HR are expected to experience budgetary cuts. Respondents expect a nearly 7% increase in their IT budgets for 2020 (see Figure 1) “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,” said Mr. Iyengar.

Figure 1. Average Budgetary Changes in 2020 as a Result of COVID-19 Impact

Source: Gartner (September 2020)

Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to emerge stronger as game-changer technologies as a result of the pandemic, as enterprises lean on them to drive better decision making in the new remote-work-first environment.

Digital Technology Initiatives at the Top of BoD’s Business Priority List

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

Eighty-six percent of respondents deem technology as having a transformational role in addressing strategic business priorities, which is why most organizations 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,” said Mr. Iyengar.

BoDs View the CIO as a Partner

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

Longer-term renewal is an important focus area for the Board, with 28% of respondents focusing on the “Renew” phase of The Reset. Executive management is less focused on renewal (18%) and more focused on the “Respond” phase, 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,” said Mr. Iyengar.  

Gartner clients can read more in “Survey Analysis: Board Directors Say Pandemic Drives Increased Investments in IT.” Additional information is available in the Reset your business strategy section on gartner.com. Complimentary research, insights and webinars are offered to help leaders build resilience on their path to business recovery.

Additional analysis on CIO leadership and how to reimagine your approach to technology and business strategy will be presented during Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2020, the world’s most important conferences for CIOs and other IT executives. IT executives rely on these conferences to gain insight into how their organizations can use IT to overcome business challenges and improve operational efficiency. Follow news and updates from the conferences on Twitter using#GartnerSYM.

Upcoming dates and locations for Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo include:

November 9-12| EMEA| Virtual

November 17-19| Japan| Virtual

November 23-25| India| Virtual

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.


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