Digital initiatives take priority with IT budgets tipped to surge

Digital initiatives take priority with IT budgets tipped to surge

Technology budgets are expected to increase, not contract

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If it seems as though organisations have been ramping up their digital initiatives since the COVID-19 crisis began to bite, despite increasingly strained budgets, new research confirms that a clear majority of boards have pushed through transformation efforts. 

Fresh data from industry analyst firm Gartner has revealed that 69 per cent of boards of directors accelerated their digital business initiatives in the wake of COVID-19 disruption.

Moreover, almost half anticipate changing their organisations’ business model as a result of the pandemic.

This is according to the 2021 Gartner Board of Directors Survey, which captured the thoughts of hundreds of respondents in a board director role or a member of a corporate board of directors across Asia Pacific, the United States and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The data was gathered from May through to June 2020.

“The long-term ask of BoDs [boards of directors] during COVID-19 is to approve forward-looking investments even in the face of potentially plummeting revenue and profits,” Gartner distinguished research vice president Partha Iyengar said. “BoDs play a strong role in helping the executive leadership team focus beyond the short-term risks associated with this extended pandemic. 

“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,” he added. 

The research also found that, far from the budgetary contraction widely expected to hit industry as a result of COVID-19, 67 per cent of those surveyed expected budgetary increases in technology as a result of the pandemic. Indeed, respondents expect a nearly seven per cent increase in their IT budgets for 2020.

However, functional areas such as marketing and human resources (HR) are expected to experience budgetary cuts. 

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

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

In fact, 86 per cent of board members surveyed agreed technology has a transformational role in addressing strategic business priorities, which is why most organisations are expected to create a new ‘chief digital officer’ role to respond to COVID-19 in the long term, according to Gartner.

“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,” Iyengar said.

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