And Now, Back to Your Top Business Priorities


Community Blog
Written by Clare Ryan

NOVEMBER 3, 2020

We all know business is not returning to “normal” anytime soon. Here at Gartner, associates were given the option to work remotely through August 2021 unless there was a critical need to be in the office. In general, business leaders are looking ahead to next year and trying to offer some guidance and reassurances to their employees about what’s next. 

Executives, in general, seem to be shifting away from the crisis response mode of this year and re-examining the mission critical priorities they had at the outset of 2020. We usually take a look at these critical priorities for C-level leaders twice per year through Evanta’s proprietary Leadership Perspectives Survey. 

We ask C-level executives in Evanta’s 120+ communities around the globe about their top business objectives, challenges, and opportunities, to look for commonalities and to find areas in which they can collaborate on similar business issues. This year, having administered the survey in February before the pandemic realities were completely known, we decided to re-send a sample of the questions in September. We wanted to ascertain how their priorities had changed since the beginning of the year. 

Not surprisingly, every C-level leader has been involved in crisis management, business continuity, and communications this year. Interestingly, though, many have remained focused on some of the same key priorities they had at the beginning of 2020. 

Chief Information Officers, for example, began the year focused on improving business performance. Their goals were to transform operations and build their data and analytics capabilities to enable better business decisions. 

Now, cybersecurity has rocketed to the top of the list for CIOs. This focus on security policy is aligned with what we are hearing in their community discussions about managing the increase in cyber attacks this year. Despite that, CIOs’ next top two priorities are data and analytics and operational transformation -- the same as what they set out to improve upon this year.

Chief Human Resources Officers are following a similar trend in which one hot issue moves to the top of their priority list -- in their case, creating a culture of inclusion. Not surprising considering what we are hearing from CHROs in their town hall discussions. The protests against racial injustice have galvanized employees and customers alike, who are demanding to know what actions companies are taking in response.

Many of these HR leaders have been working on diversity, equity and inclusion programs for years, but CHROs report that they are engaging with employees in a variety of new ways since the recent social unrest. From panel discussions and ‘real talks’ to listening tours for C-suite executives, HR leaders are engaging with their workforces and providing forums to address issues of racial inequality. 

Outside of diversity and inclusion challenges, the next two priorities for CHROs have remained the same: developing the current and future leadership bench and creating an engaging employee experience. One priority making a new appearance in the top five? Developing and implementing a return-to-workplace strategy -- another nod to business life in 2020.

For Chief Information Security Officers, their priorities have shifted only a little. They started out the year focused on the cloud (security, strategy and architecture), and that continues to be their most important initiative. Controlling user access and measuring and communicating risk are two more issues that have remained in their top five. The only real change, similar to CIOs, is that CISOs are placing more emphasis on security operations in response to experiencing more threats.

Similarly, Chief Data Officers in Evanta communities remain focused on generally the same priorities today as they were at the beginning of the year. Creating a data-driven culture across their organizations is still the number one priority for data and analytics leaders. Both predictive and prescriptive analytics and establishing trust in data quality have moved up the list, and data and analytics governance remains a consistent focus area.

To see more of what we learned about C-level leaders and their top priorities and concerns heading into 2021, you can check out our Leadership Perspective infographics summarizing the surveys for CIOs, CISOs, CHROs, and CDOs.

Clare Ryan headshot

Clare Ryan

VP, Content & Product Strategy at Evanta, a Gartner Company


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