Digital technologies continue to transform every facet of business. Across industries, CEOs have a consistent top priority—harness technology to jump-start growth, speed time to market, and foster innovation. Several factors are ratcheting up pressure: investors are valuing top-line revenue growth; rising customer expectations for simple cross-channel experiences are compelling companies to systematically tear down silos; and an organization’s ability to respond to market shifts is becoming a core differentiator. Meanwhile, digital leaders across sectors have changed the competitive landscape by demonstrating that agility and velocity can beat scale.Sidebar
Senior technology leaders are feeling this pressure. In recent McKinsey research, when chief information officers (CIOs) or equivalent tech leaders were asked about their CEO’s top priorities (see sidebar, “About the research”), 71 percent pointed to agility in reacting to changing customer needs and faster time to market, while 88 percent of respondents cited revenue acceleration.
These priorities are playing out across every industry, with huge implications for business models.
- A clothing company, for example, traditionally had several weeks between the introduction of a new product line in stores and when competitors could get their cheaper versions to market. That cushion has dropped significantly thanks to digital channels: the company indicates that it now has just 48 hours to launch a new design and gain buyers through digital, direct-to-consumer routes, and rapid (sometimes same-day) delivery.
- A digital-media company regularly saw spikes in viewership upon releasing new content, so its need to ramp up infrastructure in order to accommodate increases in demand has suddenly become critical to satisfy its subscribers.
- In financial services, a line-of-business leader at a large retail bank cited tremendous pressure to shorten product-development cycles. The industry’s average product release time has ranged from nine to 24 months—a glacial pace compared with that of fintech companies, which can deploy code daily and run dozens of A/B tests a month.
The common thread running through these examples is the ongoing, urgent need to gain market advantage through business acceleration.
Role of digital and the ever-increasing reliance on technology leaders
IT strategy has long been part of business strategy, but C-suite executives (CxOs) are increasingly seeking a larger impact from investments in digital technologies. Digital innovation has become central to the full range of business transformation initiatives and is no longer just one category among many.
Since technology is integral to a company’s performance and competitiveness, identifying prudent investments in IT modernization becomes even more critical. CEOs recognize the importance of getting it right: good choices establish a favorable course, and the business soars; however, poor choices will siphon away much-needed organizational energy and resources and undermine competitiveness.
The task of translating ambitious tech-driven strategies into accelerated performance falls to CIOs and chief technology officers (CTOs). Nearly 60 percent of CIOs indicated that their CEO depends on them to achieve the organization’s top three business priorities.