A Gartner survey revealed that 69% of boards of directors (BoDs) accelerated their digital business initiatives in the wake of COVID-19 disruption with half anticipating a possible business model change.
“BoDs play a strong role in helping the executive leadership team focus beyond the short-term risks associated with this extended pandemic,” said Partha Iyengar, distinguished research vice president at Gartner.
“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.”
COVID-19 is good for IT budgets
The shift in priority during COVID-19 is great for the CIO (67% expect IT budgets to go up) and bad for other departments like marketing and HR.
Figure 1. Average Budgetary Changes in 2020 as a Result of COVID-19 Impact
Source: Gartner (September 2020)
Despite a potential drop in revenue over continuing COVID-19 spread, BoD are approving budget increases for IT as they play the long-term game.
Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to emerge stronger as game-changer technologies as a result of the pandemic, as enterprises lean on them to drive better decision making in the new remote-work-first environment.
Top of BoD’s business priority List
Driven by the onset of COVID-19, digital technology initiatives will serve as the top strategic business priority for BoDs over the next two years, followed by customer engagement and managing the remote workforce.
Technology is seen by 86% as having a transformational role in addressing strategic business priorities, which is why most organizations are expected to create a new “Chief Digital Officer” role to respond to COVID-19 in the long term.
“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.”
CIO as a Partner to BoD
Almost all BoDs expect functional leaders to collaborate with one another during COVID-19. More than half believe that CIOs serve as partners with senior business leaders, while over a third look to the CIO to lead digital business issues alone.
Longer-term renewal is an important focus area for the Board, with 28% of respondents focusing on the “Renew” phase of The Reset. Executive management is less focused on renewal (18%) and more focused on the “Respond” phase, with just under half reporting it being their core focus area.
“CIOs and the rest of the executive management team should engage with the BoD on creating a longer-term strategy for revival – and even survival – post-crisis,” Iyengar concluded.