CEOs ramped up tech investments to boost agility

But leaders worry if they have the vision, leadership, and talent to build agile organizations

CEOs invested in workflow automation to boost agility. Do they have the people to support it?

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, only 1 in 10 organizations reported being “considerably agile” across a range of functions and processes. A year later, this value more than doubled to 28%.

Against a backdrop of risk and uncertainty, CEOs invested in workflow automation to boost business agility, the strategic imperative to survive and thrive in challenging times.

Most CEOs are pointing the finger at themselves.

A global survey of 200 C-level leaders shows that CEOs are seeking to protect their organizations from exogenous shocks by increasing their tech spend. Across verticals, 38% of CEOs reported investing in digital enterprise platforms during the pandemic.

However, CEOs are concerned they lack the time—and that the C-suite lacks the unified leadership vision—necessary to improve people and processes at a comparable rate. Without commensurate investment in talent, CEOs fear improvement will stall.

Workflow IT

For many organizations, the pandemic represented a shock to the system. To boost business agility, CEOs are prioritizing technology that improves digital workflows and promotes efficiency. About half of CEOs say they plan to invest in digital enterprise platforms in the next year or two.

And for good reason: Business leaders are reporting significant ROI from tech platforms designed to increase agility. From investments in workflow automation, 70% of CEOs reported moderate to high returns, while 80% reported moderate to high returns from their digital enterprise platform.

Silo breakers

The COVID-19 crisis was also a crisis of collaboration. Businesses that had operated solely or primarily in person suddenly had to pivot to remote and hybrid work.

To ease the transition, 23% of CEOs invested in cross-enterprise collaboration tools, while 28% reported customer systems to improve workflows. An additional 25% purchased tools to automate their workflows.

Love needed for people and process

On average, organizations spent around $21.4 million to boost business agility in 2020. While 53% of that budget went to technology, only 37% went to process, and a meager 10% was invested in people.

[Read also: People over processes]

Even as COVID-19 cases decrease, business leaders plan to continue prioritizing agility in the post-pandemic world. Next year, spending is expected to increase by about 12%. However, 70% of CEOs say the top barrier to improving agility at their organization is a lack of investment in developing and acquiring talent.

23%

of CEOs invested in cross-enterprise collaboration tools

Most CEOs are pointing the finger at themselves. Almost 7 out of 10 say their lack of clear leadership vision and time are preventing businesses from making as much progress as they could.

The takeaway: Technology can do a lot to cushion organizations against exogenous shocks. However, tech must be buoyed by people and process, or it will take the business only so far.

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