Most CEOs are slow to digitize. Here’s why they need to act now.

CEOs undervalue digital platforms compared to their C-level peers. Closing that gap is critical to business resilience.

Companies that have made the most progress adopting and implementing digital enterprise platforms tend to have higher revenue growth and are seeing other benefits—yet less than half of chief executives today consider digital platforms a major priority.

CEOs value digital enterprise platforms less than any other C-level executive, according to a new global survey of 600 executives by ESI ThoughtLab and ServiceNow. Just 4 in 10 CEOs say platforms are important to the future of their business versus an average of 64% for all other senior executives surveyed.

Survey data suggests that this perception gap at the top can handicap revenue growth, market share, risk management, and other important benchmarks, all at a time when many organizations are struggling to maintain agility and resilience in the wake of a global pandemic.

[Read also: How CEOs view innovation]

Platform advantages

Unlike software applications designed for a specific business function—such as those for customer relationship management (CRM) or IT asset management (ITAM)—digital platforms integrate workflows, manage data, and connect people across an organization. Revenue growth isn’t the only benefit that adopters of digital platforms are seeing. Companies surveyed report decreased costs (52% of respondents), improved profitability (47%), better decision making (43%), greater market share (42%), improved customer satisfaction (42%), among other benefits.

Digital platforms are all about learning how to improve the customer experience.

“CEOs perceive digital platforms more as methods to optimize their current business—rather than an opportunity to open up new markets and revenue,” says Dejan Slokar, global lead alliance partner at Deloitte. “That creates a blind spot for CEOs. By not integrating your digital processes, you may become vulnerable to disruption and unable to create new revenue models.”

Gaining an edge with customer satisfaction might be the biggest advantage of all, says Yoni Assia, CEO of multi-asset investment platform eToro.

“Digital platforms are all about learning how to improve the customer experience,” says Assia. “Every interaction a customer has with a company is a data point. The more a company can use that data to improve the customer experience, the better they become.”

Behind the disconnect

Many CEOs, however, may not have as much insight into their business operations and digital capabilities. For example, when asked to identify what specific business functions their organization has digitized and fully automated, more than half of all C-level executives identified strategic planning. Yet just 28% of surveyed CEOs mentioned the same. The survey found a similar disconnect in CEOs’ knowledge of digitization in finance, risk management, and compliance.

That awareness gap can be dangerous, says Slokar. “You may be investing in digital as an organization already, but without alignment within your executive team, that investment may not be realizing the value that it should,” he says.

By failing to see the benefits of digital enterprise platforms, CEOs may be less likely to invest in them—and fall behind competitors in the process.