2014: The year that CEOs and senior executives prioritise growth

The survey results show that growth is the top priority by far, with CEOs and executives displaying a bullish attitude toward technology-related business growth in 2014 and 2015. 

“Growth is clearly king in this year’s business priorities with 33 per cent of respondents naming growth as their top priority,” said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “In 2014, growth almost equals the sum of the next three issues on the list of top strategic business priorities. The next step will be for CEOs and CIOs to work together to match the use of modern technologies to the specific kind of growth that the business is trying to win. 

“IT-related issues, including mentions of digital, were also much more prominent this year with seven per cent of CEOs ranking IT as one of their top priorities,” said Raskino. “This supports a broader observation that CEOs are taking a higher personal interest in applying technology more aggressively in their firms. Technology talk points are becoming far more visible in CEO results presentations, investor calls and business press interviews.” 

Almost half of the IT-related priorities that respondents gave specifically mentioned digital, online or modern technologies of the post e-business era, such as social, cloud and mobile. Most of the explicit mentions were of technologies frequently associated with front office/revenue-winning capabilities. The responses made it very clear that CEOs’ minds were set on applying technology for growth, rather than internal cost and efficiency. 

Although CEOs now believe they are in more in control than in recent years, the economy remains the major external factor. The perennial market shaping issue of regulation also remains important but it is only narrowly ahead of aging, which was a surprise result from this year’s survey. 

“CEOs who have noticed the rising importance of technology-related change must now invest in that insight,” states Raskino. “Make the tough choices. Be prepared to cut back in areas that represent the old predigital ways of doing business. But maintain a coherent and integrated view of the investment being made. Don’t allow too much fragmentation across sales, marketing, digital, IT and other budgets to obscure the view and reduce directional control.” 

Gartner also asked respondents about their most important technology-enabled capability investments over the next five years. This year the top of the list is dominated by “front-office” technology-related capabilities that are used to help in sales and marketing. Gartner also noted strong interest in basing business operation in the cloud and in using data-driven decision-making via business analytics, big data and data science. Process-centric themes, which tend to associate with back-office efficiency uses of technology, are much further down the list where we see items such as business process outsourcing, dynamic business process management and electronic service enablement. 

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