Digital Transformation is the number one budget priority for Fortune 500 CIOs in 2021: Survey

Digital Transformation is the number one budget priority for Fortune 500 CIOs in 2021, according to a WalkMe-Constellation Research survey of 100 Fortune 500 CIOs to uncover how CIOs and IT organizations will define success in 2021.

In ‘The CIO Outlook for 2021’ survey, Constellation unveils the top challenges faced by CIOs when it comes to budget, staffing, and operations. The survey also examines the post-COVID landscape, how CIOs are defining their 2021 priorities, and what they plan to do to improve their infrastructure, departments, and processes.

Several key insights are illuminated in the findings, providing clarity around IT priorities and how the role of the CIO will evolve as the focus shifts towards 2021 and beyond. “We are delighted to partner with Constellation Research on this survey,” says Dan Adika, CEO of WalkMe, adding, “as we move into 2021 it is clear that the role of the CIO is expanding, and becoming more business critical than ever before.”

“The CIO was at the nexus of business and employee experience like never before in 2020, grappling with a historic set of challenges” says Dion Hinchcliffe, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, adding, “our Q4 CIO survey surfaced the focal priorities of CIOs going into 2021, with digital transformation standing head and shoulders above all other concerns. These leading CIOs expect to be aided by powerful new technologies like digital adoption platforms, automation technologies, and next-generation analytics.”

IT Budgets Remain Unchanged

Despite gloomy forecasts at the start of the pandemic – in which over 40% of CIOs expected an IT budget cut – there is a silver lining in cloud migration. Up to 80% of CIOs reported no, or a less than 10%, change to their IT budget, and many of the CIOs surveyed cited that their budget for IT expenditure has increased from 2019.

This is hardly surprising considering that the mass ‘remote work’ experiment has proved successful – we do not expect to return to the office in the mass numbers of the pre-pandemic workforce. This mandates a greater IT expenditure, as CIOs and their office must equip workers with the ability to perform their work from home – necessitating an increase of the tools and technologies that enable employees to work at their best, from anywhere in the world.

In fact, a staggering 77.3% of CIOs recognized digital transformation as their number one budget priority going forwards. From large scale change management to deriving more value from their existing tech stack, the pivotal role that IT plays in workforce enablement has seen a significant increase since shelter-in-place orders were first communicated at the global scale.

Technology is Critical to Overall Success

CIOs need a multitude of solutions to adapt the organization to change, to become more resilient and future-proof. When asked what activities will help future-proof the org, automation stood out as key (51%), alongside making IT more resilient to disruption (51%) and creating a talent stream of just-in-time skills and abilities (49%). Overall, CIOs are expecting broad improvements in the ROI of IT, with 45% having 10% increases as a goal, and 23% reporting 20% of higher ROI expectations.

“This data – gathered from top CIOs around the world – shows that they will be seeking dramatic improvements, especially significantly (10-20%+) higher ROI from their IT investment according to the survey, within their organizations in the first six months of next year” says Dion Hinchcliffe, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research.

Employee Wellbeing is an IT Objective

Now that the world is working remotely, IT infrastructure is more critical than ever to overall employee wellbeing as workers become siloed, frustrated by technical challenges, and overwhelmed by new processes protocols put in place to manage a makeshift remote workforce.

In fact, almost half of the CIOs surveyed reported that IT support was challenged by the enablement and support demands of remote workers. This is further complicated by the fact that, as a third of CIOs also listed in the survey, workers are struggling with insufficient technology skills to manage their work remotely.

Looking to the Future

In a post-COVID world where digitization is key to business continuity, CIOs are uniquely positioned to lead their organizations to success. No longer viewed as a service provider, IT is at the epicenter of the business, employees, and customers. By maximizing the return on their technology investment, CIOs pave the way for success through their digital assets.

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