Gartner released the results of its annual CEO Survey overnight, showcasing the optimistic attitude of global CEOs — anticipating an economic boom, and seeing opportunity through digital in a post-COVID world.
The survey was conducted online, and by phone and video interviews from July to December 2020 and included insights from 465 C-Suite executives, 97 of whom were from APAC, including Australia.
According to Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner, “The good news is that digital still has a lot of CEO belief.”
The CEOs surveyed highlighted technology change as the number-two business priority. When listing their top five strategic business priorities in their own words, the responses showed the word “digital” was cited — unprompted — by one in five respondents.
According to Moyer, however, the broad awareness of digital and its use-cases does not always reflect genuine transformation.
“The less good news is that the word digital has become so overused that it can lack meaning,” she says.
This is reflected in the prioritisation of ecommerce increasing fourfold, while transformation and business model change has dropped by half.
“Doing a lot of stuff doesn’t mean innovative change,” says Moyer.
AI was identified as the “most industry-impactful technology” and quantum computing was also cited as highly relevant to 30 per cent of leaders — though without clear implementation plans.
Mark Raskino, Distinguished Research VP at Gartner, said leaders are focused on their mid- to long-range business strategy in a post-pandemic world. “In most cases, that will uncover a round of new structural changes to capability, location, products and business models.”
Executives are bullish about corporate activity in the year ahead. Mentions of mergers and acquisition rose by 75 per cent year over year, meaning executives are looking to take advantage of the downturn.
“Techquisitions can bolster digital business progress, while also providing access to potential fast-growth market sectors,” says Raskino.
Interestingly, and perhaps reflective of that same downturn, mentions of “sales revenue” were down significantly. CEOs are not looking for a return to normal — they’re trying to find new markets.
The survey also suggests that when it comes to thinking about the societal impacts of business, 45 per cent of CEOs realise the significance of climate change mitigation and 39 per cent acknowledged that taking a stance on social justice issues is good for business.
That of course leaves 61 per cent feeling tentative to make a public stance on sustainability or social justice issues.