Growth, corporate strategies, information technology (IT) and workforce issues continue to top CEOs’ priorities for this year, says research and advisory company Gartner.
Gartner published a survey that comprises input from 460 CEOs and senior executives. The survey examined business issues, as well as some areas of technology and agenda impact, and found that growth tops the list of CEO business priorities for this year and 2019.
However, as simple and implemental growth becomes harder to achieve, CEOs are concentrating on changing and upgrading the structure of their companies, including gaining a deeper understanding of digital business.
“Although growth remains the CEO's biggest priority, there was a significant fall in simple mentions of it this year, from 58% in 2017 to just 40% in 2018. This does not mean CEOs are less focused on growth; instead it shows that they are shifting perspective on how to obtain it," explains Gartner fellow VP Mark Raskino.
The corporate category, which includes actions such as new strategy, corporate partnership and mergers and acquisitions, has risen significantly to become the second-biggest priority.
“IT remains a high priority, coming in at the third position. CEOs mention digital transformation in particular,” says Raskino.
Moreover, workforce issues have risen rapidly this year to become the fourth-biggest priority, up from seventh-biggest in 2017.
The number of CEOs mentioning workforce in their top three priorities rose from 16% in 2017 to 28% in 2018.
“When asked about the most significant internal constraints to growth, employee and talent issues were at the top. CEOs said that a lack of talent and workforce capability is the biggest inhibitor of digital business progress,” Raskino notes.
Meanwhile, culture change is a key aspect of digital transformation. The Gartner survey found that CIOs agreed that it is a high-priority concern, but only 37% of CEOs said a significant or deep culture change is needed by 2020.
However, when companies that have a digital initiative under way are compared with those that do not, the proportion in need of culture change rose to 42%, explains Raskino.
“These survey results show that if a company has a digital initiative, then the recognised need for culture change is higher. The most important types of cultural change that CEOs intend to make include making the culture more proactive, collaborative, innovative, empowered and customer-centric. They also highly rate a move to a more digital and tech-centric culture,” he says.
Further, survey respondents were also asked whether they have a management initiative or transformation programme to make their business more digital. The majority (62%) said they do have such a programme.
Of those, 54% said their digital business objective is transformational, while 46% said the objective is optimisation.
When asked to describe their top five business priorities, the number of respondents mentioning the word ‘digital’ at least once rose from 2.1% in the 2012 survey to 13.4% in 2018. This positive attitude toward digital business is backed up by CEOs' continuing intent to invest in IT.
Sixty-one per cent of respondents intend to increase spending on IT in 2018, while 32% plan to make no changes to spending, and only 7% foresee spending cuts.
Raskino will further examine key CEO and CIO issues during leadership forums and executive summits during the year.