Half of CEOs Expect Their Industries to Be Substantially or Unrecognizably Transformed by Digital

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Gartner 2016 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey indicates weakening economies will not deflect from digital business transformation

Stamford, CT (Apr. 22, 2016) – CEOs have underlined that growth will be their top business priority for 2016, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. The 2016 Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey found that despite indications that the global economy is struggling in early 2016, CEOs do not plan to significantly change their priorities. After growth (54 percent), the second and third business priorities are customers (31 percent) and workforce (27 percent).

The Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey of 400 senior business leaders in user organizations worldwide was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2015, asking questions about 2016/2017. Most responding organizations were those with annual revenue of $1 billion or more. The survey results show that while business conditions are challenging, CEOs remain confident enough to sanction strategic investments, particularly when it comes to digital business transformation.

“The big rise of explicit mentions of the word “customer” was very noticeable in the results of this year’s survey,” said Mark Raskino, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “CEOs seem to be concerned about improving customer service, relationship and satisfaction levels. At the same time, CEOs have become much more concerned about employee issues than a couple of years ago. The emphasis is as much on benefits, retention and training of mainstream staff. It is not constrained only to senior grade ‘talent’ issues.”

In a bid to stick to their digital business transformation plans, more and more CEOs are choosing to head up digital change in the business. The survey found that CEOs now understand that digital business is substantial enough to warrant them leading it personally. If they delegate primary responsibility, then the next most likely leader is the CIO.

The rise in the number of CEOs heading up digital change is unsurprising given that half of the CEOs surveyed expect to see substantial digital transformation in their industries, or for their industries to be almost unrecognizable within five years. Examples of digital changes in industries include self-driving cars, the rise of blockchain in banking, the e-cigarette revolution in tobacco and the potential impact of Internet of Things (IoT)-fuelled data science in insurance.

The survey results also showed that CEOs appear to see digitalization as a positive force, not a destructive one. Overall, they are very bullish about the effects of digital change on the gross (pretax) profitability of their businesses. Eighty-four percent of CEOs said that they expect digital change to bring higher profit margins.

“One explanation for CEOs’ optimistic attitude toward digital change may be because they can see how it helps with the product innovations that matter to customers,” said Mr. Raskino. “We asked CEOs what proportion of the customer perceived value of products and services they think is digital. Thinking about the product features that customers are choosing and believe they are buying, CEOs said the value percentage is already 30 percent on average, and will rise to 46 percent by 2019.”

More detailed analysis is available in the report “2016 CEO Survey: The Year of Digital Tenacity.”

Additional analysis on digital trends will be provided during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and other senior IT executives. IT executives rely on these events to gain insight into how their organizations can use IT to overcome business challenges and improve operational efficiency. Follow news and updates from the events on Twitter using #GartnerSYM.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. The company delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is the valuable partner to clients in approximately 10,000 distinct enterprises worldwide. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Executive Programs, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role.

Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, and has 7,900 associates, including more than 1,700 research analysts and consultants, and clients in more than 90 countries. For more information, visit www.gartner.com.