Data centric decision making is a key culture and capability change in a management system that hopes to thrive in the digital age
Growth continues to top the list of CEO business priorities in the next two years, according to a recent survey of CEOs and senior executives by Gartner.
“After a significant fall last year, mentions of growth increased this year to 53 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 2018,” says Mark Raskino, vice president at Gartner.
“This suggests that CEOs have switched their focus back to tactical performance as clouds gather on the horizon,” says Raskino.
At the same time, mentions of financial priorities, cost and risk management also increased.
“However, we did not see CEOs intending to significantly cut costs in various business areas. They are aware of the rising economic challenges and proceeding with more caution — they are not preparing for recession.”
Top 11 business priorities of CEOs
The survey finds CEOs have high hopes for technology, but were much more inclined to think of it as a tool.
Nearly half (47 per cent) mention technology as one of their top two ways to improve productivity.
The survey also notes that CEOs are concerned that some of the executive roles do not possess strong or even sufficient digital skills to face the future confidently.
On average, CEOs think that sales, risk, supply chain and HR officers are most in need of more digital savvy, notes Raskino, in the report 2019 CEO Survey: The Year of Challenged Growth.
“CIOs and digital leaders must help them stretch beyond their traditional comfort zones,” he states.
CIOs can schedule a series of one-to-one meetings to gently help executive colleagues to grow by privately talking through some of the key challenges and opportunities created by the digital era
Once all executive leaders are more comfortable with the digital sphere, new capabilities to execute on their business strategies will need to be developed, he adds.
When asked which organisational competencies their company needs to develop the most, 18 per cent of CEOs named talent management, closely followed by technology enablement and digitalisation (17 per cent) and data centricity or data management (15 per cent).
“Data centric decision-making is a key culture and capability change in a management system that hopes to thrive in the digital age,” says Rasikno.
“Executive leaders must be a role model to encourage and foster data centricity and data literacy in their business units and the organisation as a whole.”
Companies that do a root cause analysis of why their leaders are not moving forward will often find this area is pivotal.
He says last year, for instance, British retailer Marks and Spencer created a “data academy” offering data leadership training. The retail group also offered a more advanced “data fellowship” 18-month data science course to many of its management and professional employee groups.
The announcement was important enough to involve the CEO directly.
Raskino also lists other ways CIOs and digital business leaders can help develop the leadership team’s ability to lead in the digital economy.
One of them is to identify the two executives most in need of personal development of their digital business understanding, ability and confidence within their own domain.
CIOs can schedule a series of one-to-one meetings to gently help them to grow by privately talking through some of the key challenges and opportunities created by the digital era.
Help them think through the implications of digital for their own area of expertise
“Help them think through the implications for their own area of expertise,” says Raskino.
CIOs can also help these executives develop their teams by identifying newer key competencies needed to perform well and drive through necessary change toward a more digital style of doing business.
It is also important to ask the CEO to support training and development resource rebalancing.
This can be done by shifting budget and focus away from traditional areas of capability strength toward the critical new areas that digital-era business demands.
The annual Gartner 2019 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey interviewed 473 CEO and senior business executives in the fourth quarter of 2018 about their business issues, as well as some areas of technology agenda impact.
In total, 473 business leaders of companies with $50 million or more and 60 per cent with US$1 billion or more in annual revenue were qualified and surveyed.
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