Digital IQ: C-suite Alignment for Digital Payoff

  • Digital IQ leaders weren’t stopped by the pandemic, instead they increased the velocity of digital transformation.

  • Where IT and business executives are in sync the payoff for business is greater..

  • Aligning strategy and technology led to financial performance improvement and the realisation of key business outcomes.

Transformation. Innovation. Modernisation. 

Whatever you call it, digital technology like cloud, artificial intelligence and analytics — along with new ways of working — are the engine for enterprise change. And as the pace has intensified, two things have become clear: Every C-suite executive has an ownership stake and it’s harder than ever to reap the payoff.

With digital now a shared responsibility among chief information officers (CIOs), chief technology officers (CTOs), chief data officers (CDOs) and their peers in finance, operations and other functions and business lines, things aren’t always straightforward. What’s the right approach to maximising value and realising the outcomes you’re after? As a tech leader, when do you charge ahead and when do you build consensus?

To understand how companies are faring in the new reality, we look to our latest Digital IQ Survey, which for more than a decade has examined the strategies, attitudes and relationships of business and technology leaders. In the second quarter of 2021, we surveyed more than 1,250 global executives and found that CIOs and their business partners don’t always see eye to eye. But at the companies where they are in sync — what we refer to as Digital IQ leaders — there’s a greater payoff.

No surprise, here: digital transformation has ramped up…

53% accelerated their digital transformation efforts and 57% say transforming was critical to their performance

...but executives aren’t always on the same page

Business and IT executives often prioritise different things. This disconnect can make it challenging to realise value. A disjointed strategy can put leaders at cross-purposes, effectively keeping the business stuck in place. When asked about desired outcomes from digital investments over the last 12 months, both IT and business leaders say they have been focused on survival and efficiency. But beyond that, business leaders are looking to change their core business model while tech leaders prioritise modernisation.

What the business wants vs What IT wants

Better together: Two digital goals IT and business agree on

We identified a small group of IT executives (representing about one-fifth of all tech execs in our survey) who see eye to eye with their business peers. Dominating their digital agenda — both today and two years from now — is modernising the brand or pursuing initiatives that increase speed and efficiency.

Two digital goals IT and business agree on

Moves that positioned Digital IQ leaders to thrive

These leaders didn’t let the events of 2020 derail transformation. Instead, they pushed forward and, at times, with an increasing velocity. That has meant technology is more important than ever, as a foundational catalyst in mobilising that change and transformation.

Moves that positioned Digital IQ leaders to thrive

Cloud computing and automation help employees work in new ways

Digital IQ leaders were also more likely to invest in cloud technologies, including enterprise applications, infrastructure and development platforms. They also invested significantly in process automation, putting tools in the hands of employees in order to accomplish tasks faster, leaving more time to dedicate to value-driven and insights-based work.

Cloud computing and automation help employees work in new ways

The performance payoff

By aligning strategy and technology, Digital IQ leaders saw financial performance improve during the earliest days of the 2020 health crisis. They were also more likely than others to say their company’s use of digital technologies, processes and behaviours has transformed their workforce’s ability and provided opportunity to innovate over the past two years.

The performance payoff

Business payoffs from digital investments  

The ROI doesn’t stop there. Digital IQ leaders are also more likely to realise key business outcomes they’re after, compared with others.

Business payoffs from digital investments

3 ways to become a digital leader

Here’s how tech and business leaders can align on strategy choices and value:

1. Develop the value story

Align on the promise of cloud with your business stakeholders reflective of the industry you’re in and where you are on your journey. This requires making specific choices about how cloud will help differentiate the business — what digital and technology capabilities you’ll develop, the customer problems you will solve and the role your company plays in the industry or other ecosystems. Make it a priority to revisit this promise as your organisation evolves and progresses through your cloud transformation.

2. Embrace new mental models

Applying digital and cloud to existing processes and structures will yield only limited gains. It requires a fundamental shift in both how your organisation works and how quickly it can deliver new products, services and experiences. Executives should commit to rethinking how work is done. An unconventional approach also applies to talent. Be open to exploring novel ways to upskill, acquire and incentivise cloud talent. Understand that value realisation takes time and it requires competency upskilling on both the business and technology side.

3. Team strategically

Technology leaders should proactively engage their peers, especially CFOs, operations, risk and tax leaders. Initiate dialogue with security and risk leaders at the earliest stages so that security, compliance and governance are embedded into the fabric of your cloud transformation, enhancing trust with your customers. While collaborating with tax and finance peers around using R&D tax credits to offset the cost of innovation funding can make a significant difference in ROI.

About the survey

We surveyed 1,250 senior executives across Canada, Mexico and the United States in a wide range of industry sectors. Respondent companies represent a range of sizes, from less than $250 million in revenue to over $50 billion. The survey was fielded by Oxford Economics in April 2021.

A version of this article was previously published on PwC's Tech Effect.