Data and Customers Are Top CEO Investment Priorities

DALLAS (Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit 2013).— Although the past 12 months have been laced with uncertainty for CEOs due to the U.S. fiscal cliff and Eurozone crises, new research suggests corporate purse strings are starting to loosen.

According to Gartner's 2013 CEO and Senior Executive Survey, scheduled to be released next week, 68 percent of CEOs said that despite the inherent economic uncertainty, they expect to plan ahead and invest to drive revenue growth, representing a "huge uptick from last year," said Gartner Vice President and Research Fellow Ken McGee during a presentation today.

Out of CEOs' top 10 business priorities for this year, revenue and company growth took the top spot, followed by reducing costs, re-evaluating and reinvesting in the workforce, focusing on the customer, and improving profitability. Additionally, the leading business-improving technology investment priorities for CEOs will be data and customer-driven.

Business analytics will be the most important area of investment, with 71 percent of CEOs expressing interest in increasing spending. The second most important area of investment will be enhanced business reporting, at 56 percent; followed by customer experience management, at 48 percent; e-commerce, at 45 percent, and enterprise mobility, at 42 percent.

"The back office has been a big black hole of gravitational pull for IT spend," McGee said. But that's beginning to change. Companies and executives are asking, "What is the business process?" McGee pointed out. Customer-facing, front-office areas like marketing and sales were given "explicit mention" in CEO investment priority while technology itself is an explicit priority for only a few, he said.

More enterprises will begin to shift from IT-centric roles and employ chief data officers and chief digital officers, who not only evaluate competitive position and how a company can diversify its revenue model (while still sustaining current revenue models), but who understand "causal relationships," or how technology and business process impacts outcomes, McGee maintained. Simply stated, business analytics are a top priority, but addressing the cultural shift required to analyze and act on big data is equally important.

Fred Gallagher, general manager of VectorWise, the analytics database of Actian, a data management solutions company, told CRM that he sees the most success at aligning business and technology roles when individuals in those roles work closely together or are responsible for both business and technology outcomes.

"I speak to a lot of customers, and the key is getting strategic alignment at the individual level and [then having] people start to get together on those individual projects," he says. "That not only happens at digital media start-ups, but at Fortune 100 companies that have that DNA of, 'We need to bring business and technology together.'"

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