Hundreds of CEOs expect the economy to rebound strongly after a difficult 2020 fiscal year, marked of course by major economic disruptions linked to the global health crisis.
Gartner surveyed 465 bosses and senior executives of companies in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific between July and December 2020, to gauge their opinion on the efforts to be provided for economic recovery. According to this survey, 60% of them expect an economic boom, while 40% predict a stagnation in 2021 and 2022. When asked if companies will recover or exceed the income levels of 2019 this year, 35% of respondents responded positively.
But many business leaders have acknowledged that some things have changed permanently, due to the adjustments that were made at the height of the pandemic. Gartner asked survey respondents about priorities and potential future changes: the vast majority mentioned technology, with one in five CEOs using the word “digital” in their responses.
A year of digital transformation
For Kristin Moyer, vice president of research at Gartner, the increased use of digital technology and the demand for flexible digital channels are also among the top three expected changes in customer behavior. “This suggests that it will be vital to continue to improve the way customers are served digitally,” she said.
The only category where CEOs have said they plan to increase their investments in 2021 is “digital capabilities,” with most citing AI and more than 30% quantum computing. Blockchain and 5G were also mentioned, but many CEOs have expressed concerns about trade disputes between the United States and China over these technologies.
Business leaders are also prioritizing increasing mergers and acquisitions. Gartner notes in its survey the resurgence of terms such as “sales” and “new markets” to describe future strategies. “The top priorities for CEOs for 2021 demonstrate their confidence. More than half of them say growth is their main goal and see opportunities on the other side of the crisis, followed by technological change and corporate actions, ”said Mark Raskino, vice president of research at Gartner.
Telework destined to last?
“This year, all leaders will strive to decode what the post-pandemic world will look like and redefine their medium and long-term business strategy accordingly. In most cases, this will uncover a series of new structural changes in capabilities, location, products and business models. “
As vaccination advances around the world, more than 80% of CEOs say they expect some behavioral changes to continue, including hybrid work environments.
Many CEOs have also expressed concern about consumer demand, which some expect to be further limited, even when the effects of the pandemic have abated. In the travel industry in particular, CEOs told Gartner they expect demand to remain limited, both from consumers and CFOs who allocate funds for company-related expenses.
Almost 40% of CEOs add that actively addressing issues of social justice and sustainability is a must for their company and their employees. Climate change is already having noticeable effects on businesses, according to 45% of CEOs.