Four ways to deliver digital dividends

Most organizations struggle with developing digital change

CIOs and IT leaders must take action to accelerate time to value and drive top- and bottom-line financial impacts from digital investments, according to Gartner, Inc.’s annual global survey of CIOs and technology executives.

“The pressure on CIOs to deliver digital dividends is higher than ever,” said Daniel Sanchez-Reina, VP Analyst at Gartner. “CEOs and boards anticipated that investments in digital assets, channels and digital business capabilities would accelerate growth beyond what was previously possible. Now, business leadership expects to see these digital-driven improvements reflected in enterprise financials.”

In 2023, EMEA CIOs expect their IT budgets to increase 4.4 per cent on average, which is lower than the projected 6.5 per cent global inflation rate. This means that CIOs will have less funding available than last year. A triple squeeze of economic pressure, scarce and expensive talent and ongoing supply challenges is heightening the desire and urgency to realize time to value.

Gartner analysts presented the survey findings during Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo™, taking place here through Thursday. The 2023 Gartner CIO and Technology Executive Survey gathered data from 2,203 CIO respondents in 81 countries and all major industries, representing approximately $US15 trillion in revenue/public-sector budgets and $322 billion in IT spending. In EMEA, 780 CIOs participated in the survey from 51 countries and all major industries, representing nearly $US5.9 trillion in revenue and $US78 billion in IT spending.

The survey analysis revealed four ways in which CIOs can deliver digital dividends and demonstrate the financial impact of technology investments:

Prioritize the Right Digital Initiatives

In EMEA, survey respondents ranked their executives’ objectives for digital technology investment over the last two years. The top two objectives were to improve operational excellence (53 per cent) and improve customer or citizen experience (44 per cent). In comparison, only 29 per cent cited growing revenue as a primary objective and 22 per cent cited improving cost efficiency.

“Overall, CIOs must prioritize digital initiatives with market-facing, growth impact,” said Sanchez-Reina. “For some CIOs, this means stepping out of their comfort zone of internal back-office automation to instead focus on customer or constituent-facing initiatives.”

In addition, the survey revealed that EMEA CIOs’ business priorities for the remainder of 2022 and next year are growth and digital transformation. CIOs’ top areas of increased spending in 2023 include cyber and information security (70 per cent), business intelligence/data analytics (53 per cent) and cloud platforms (48 per cent). However, just 34 per cent are increasing investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and 24 per cent in hyperautomation.

Create a Metrics Hierarchy

The survey found that 94 per cent of EMEA organizations struggle with developing a vision for digital change, often due to competing expectations from different stakeholders. “We have the chief marketing officer, chief sales officer, chief financial officer and other C-level executives competing with each other in delivering their digital transformation, and this is consuming the CIO’s resources as there is no unified digital strategy,” said Sanchez-Reina.

The main drawback for this lack of digital vision is the inexistence of a common and quantified business objective across the entire organization. “For example, each business unit carries out their own initiatives to improve customer experience, however, they are not aligned to a common business result, such as increasing sales by a certain target,” said Sanchez-Reina.

The solution is for every single business unit to have their own metric that contributes to the same business result.

Contribute IT Talent to a Business-Led Fusion Team

While strategic engagement of business unit leaders is necessary to accelerate digital initiatives, the survey exposed that the heavy burden of digital delivery is still not equally executed among IT and business departments. For example, only 32 per cent of EMEA CIOs said that business functions participate in agile digital execution teams.

“Over-dependence on IT staff for digital delivery reflects a traditional mindset, which can impede agility,” said Sanchez-Reina. “EMEA CIOs must embrace democratized digital delivery by design to accelerate time to value. Equipping and empowering those outside of IT – especially business technologists – to build digitalized capabilities, assets and channels can help achieve business goals faster.”

Loaning IT staff to fusion teams that combine business experts, business technologists and IT staff will catalyze a team that is focused on achieving digital business outcomes, while also opening the way for reciprocity, such as integrating subject-matter experts from the business into an IT-led fusion team.

Reduce the Talent Gap with Unconventional Resources

Many CIOs continue to struggle to hire and retain IT talent to accelerate digital initiatives. However, the survey identified numerous sources of technology talent that are untapped. For example, only 12 per cent of EMEA companies use students (through internships and relationships with schools) to help develop technological capabilities and only 24 per cent use gig workers.

“Talent shortages are among the greatest hindrances to digital,” said Sanchez-Reina. “CIOs are often limited by policies related to preferred providers or employment contracts. They must stress to business and HR leadership that engaging unconventional talent sources can help accelerate the realization of digital dividends.”



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